Sunday, May 22, 2016

the moose in my canyon

monday morning the road was damp. 
wet in places, puddles collected in potholes and deep cracks in the asphalt. my bike's headlight, on low beam, shot silver across the dark road and lit each pool and spill. the air, damp as well, carried scent of soil, pungent stalks and fragrant sage. 

heavy clouds bunched grey and fat a hundred feet above the summit, their outline clear to me only after I'd pedaled halfway up the dark road into the lightening morning. two kilometers from the top my headlight was no longer necessary and the night's rain was beginning to sink into the ground.

at the peak I paused to pull on a windjacket, then swooped down to the reservoir, eyes searching the hillsides for deer, secretly hoping for a coyote. as I neared the final curve before the reservoir, I saw two dark shapes by the shoulder, four-legged, all of those limbs long and spindly. I braked, slowed, looked left, saw three deer on the hill gazing down, and then I looked back at the two moose. yearlings, I first thought, and as I neared them I realized one was much bigger than the other and I swallowed, mom.

how fast can a moose run?
how was I going to sneak past them on the way back up the hill, where my top speed might be 12 mph?
mom observed me as I cruised past, not 15 feet away. the deer uphill followed with their eyes.
at the reservoir I circled and headed back up the road, heart beating wildly, silently asking the moose to let me pass peacefully. the deer, now on my right, remained firmly planted, heads turning with my movement. the moose, dark, knobby and gangling, watched me as well, immobile but for their staring eyes. I stole looks at them all, heart fiery, palms damp inside my gloves, as I pedaled round and round, moving past, leaving them all to their early morning feast.

Sunday, March 13, 2016


when I stand on my pedals to coast over wide speed humps,
I am eight again.

nuff said.

Monday, January 25, 2016

anti anhedonia

I haven't ridden my bicycle since november. two long months ago.
perhaps that's why I've been in a slump.
the blues, lethargy, anhedonia*.

instead of splashing creeks, crisp air, chattering squirrels and birds, soaring hawks, wide-eyed deer, the kiss of sun and the cooling rush of air, I've been sitting on an uncomfortable saddle (which some describe as the head of a shovel) in a rectangular room with tinted windows, rubber mat flooring, while listening to someone else's (sometimes great, sometimes not so great) playlist.

I want my bicycle back.

because with it comes inspiration, exhaustion, rejuvenation.
peace, effort, exhilaration, joy, pleasure, playfulness, accomplishment, fear and fearlessness.

in the spin room I have camaraderie, shared pain, heat, sweaty towels, and cyclists in front of me I can never catch. (on the other hand, neither am I ever dropped by them.) I have a fan for a tailwind.

yesterday I hiked in the snow. I walked for miles along the pipeline, a favorite mountain-biking trail for many locals. thick with snow, it traverses the mountainsides high above millcreek canyon road, edged at times by rough rocks, canopied at times by scrub oak, often completely exposed, a narrow track cut into a sloping hillside. the drop-off, at those exposed sections, is vast and steep, and I do best to keep my eyes averted.
as I plodded through newly fallen snow, ice crusting my hat, my boots water logged, I longed for the speed of my bicycle, its ability to take me from one place to another in that perfectly paced span of time.
I thought about a fat-tired bike. each time I skate ski on my favorite road that leads up big mountain, I see men on fat-tired bikes, riding on the snow.
I tried to picture myself, riding the snowy pipeline trail on a big, fat-tired bike.
I smiled.
it cheered me up.
however, I think I'll have to patiently wait for a dry day, a sunny day, when the snow and ice have pulled back from the bike lanes, the snowmelt keeps to the edges, and the bicycle gods whisper in my ear,
come play.

*anhedonia the loss of interest in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities

Sunday, September 27, 2015

mind shift

my bicycle has 22 gears.  you can almost think about them as being on a continuum, moving from least-helpful to most-helpful, with just a bit of overlap in the middle.
our brains have an infinite number of gears, and I suppose you could place them on the same type of continuum.
my bicycling brain, however, has seemed to have very few gears, namely

  • go hard
  • go less hard
  • don't go

don't go, of course, is a complete recovery day.  these are the days that increase your strength as your overtaxed muscles rebuild. usually once a week.
go less hard is a riding-recovery day, when I (try to) keep my heartrate at a mid to low level. maybe once a week.
go hard is every other day.

but I threw a spanner in the works this year.
april, 2015, came and went, and I didn't sign up for lotoja.  first time in 8 years.
without the carrot of a 206-mile race in september, I, mmm, well, relaxed.
no pressure to ride for 80 miles every saturday, nor to do frequent multiple canyon rides. my longest ride of the summer was 82 miles, and my typical saturday ride has been about 60.
I've ridden at least 1000 less miles than I usually have racked up by the end of september, and I haven't missed the training stress one iota.

however, I still have been limited by those same 3 mental gears. go hard, go less hard, don't go.

until yesterday.
I'd had a draining week, and was squeezing a ride in around other commitments. I knew I was mentally depleted, so I promised to go easy on myself. I would ride how I rode, with the only goal being to have a good experience.
the universe gave me a 69 degree start, gentle wind, someone to draft riding to the canyon mouth, and a tailwind all the way back.
I made such good time I stopped at great harvest for a treat on my way home.

I now have a new gear. a fourth gear. I call it go well.
and I plan to use it more frequently.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


I find more to be right with the entire world
when I begin my day with a pre-dawn ride
up a canyon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

ode to the commuter

to see one riding on her way
across the asphalt road
with bags attached and fenders strong
legs afire, this transporting mode

keeps air more clean and particle-free
and works his muscles well
chain marks on his calf, or narrow pant
are often the cycling tell

panniers on the rear, one left, one right
carry her work, her clothes
while she wears helmet, glasses, gloves and coat
and covers to protect her toes

he rides with caution and with ease
the streets he knows by heart
snow and rain and wind and hail
he from his bicycle won't part

I ride behind her fully at peace
I trust her every decision
her movements are so smooth I am
captured by the vigilance and precision

I am not nearly so strong and true
as to daily ride my way around town
I admire the commuter, each her, each him,
my highest respect and regard are theirs, hands down.

yesterday was SLC's Mayor's Bike to Work day, with mayor ralph becker and county mayor ben mcadams.
a hundred or so cyclists showed up at the starting point, and moseyed through bike paths and city streets to the city-county building downtown.
I've never felt so confident riding behind cyclists:  these commuters are steady, vigilant, smart, and wise.  thus the ode. (which proves why I am not a poet!)

hats off to every commuter, everywhere ~  hats off, and helmets on.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

nine dollars

The road up Big Mountain, gated during winter months, offers surprise and delight each spring. Receding snow pulls back inch by inch, revealing moose and deer scat, red rock gravel tumbled down from hillsides, new cracks and frost heaves. A bolt from a snowmobile, a mangled and misshapen glove, a ski pole basket. Familiar landmarks, and the intangible but certain promise of new growth.

While the road is still closed to motor traffic, intrepid cyclists ford fingers of snow and ice to reach bare asphalt and continue their upward journeys. This year the plow came early, shoving aside, during the first week of March, what little snow remained. On a bright April day the road, though free of snow, is not free of gravel and rocks and red dust, nor the rare but deadly shard that pokes up and into unfortunate bicycle tires.

I felt it, argued against it, doubted myself, convinced myself it was true, and finally, braked to a slow stop. The rear tire—of course—the one with the complicated derailleur to navigate as I take the wheel off and endeavor to put it back on. The chain goes under this one—no, over—no, this way around the cassette . . .

Biking Buddy Bob played the hero role, removing my tire, stripping the deflated tube, then checking for the culprit, the minuscule piece of glass, rock, metal I had run over. Nothing. I handed him the new tube, the cartridge in its dispenser. Five minutes, maybe a few more, and we were again pedaling, heading down toward the reservoir, Little Mountain summit, home.

I ride thousands of miles, outside, each year. I bicycle our Wasatch canyons regularly, grunting and sweating as I climb, grinning like a fool as I descend. I clean my chain, wash my bike, re-lube. I keep a spare tube and cartridge and sunscreen in my tiny seat pack. Ten bucks and an expired driver license in my front bento box. And I get a flat tire perhaps two or three times a year. Tube, seven dollars. Cartridge, two dollars.

Each spring I participate in the greening of our world. Trees sprout buds, gray-brown trunks and limbs flecked with pale green hope. Red twig dogwood deepens in color, thickens. The shoots of winter-dormant plants green the hillsides, creeping their way up the canyon, each week another few hundred feet higher. Trees then burst into leaf and blossom, bird’s nests once again veiled by fluttering leaves. I tuck behind Biking Buddy Bob’s wheel and float down the canyon.

I pedal as summer heats the earth, as brilliant yellow arrowleaf balsamroot dies, cracks break apart earth, the creeks quiet and laze downhill. Crisp morning air, hot midday sun, sweat, dirt, grime, brownies at Brighton, a PayDay at the East Canyon Resort store. Sunflowers burst, their heliotropic heads following daylight east to west. When they, too, die, stalks thin and dry, and temperatures drop, the world again changes in front of my wheels, and I pedal up the canyon and skirt lumps of snow pushed against the berm. More layers, toe covers, pink cheeks, the thrill of a hot shower back home. The gate at the base of Big Mountain is once again locked. Snow falls, then melts.

Tube, seven dollars. Cartridge, two.