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.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

the coyote in my canyon

approaching the final curve before the hill’s crest, the sun is moments from advancing the sky from dawn to day.  particles of the night’s darkness hang in the air and everything—rocky hillsides, trees, the road itself—blurs gently around surfaces and edges and my headlight throws a fat cone of weak light that illumes naught but hovering molecules of night.

nothing is sharply defined, and all is tinted by the watery mutedness and appears mottled green or one of sixteen shades of earth.

when a dust brown creature suddenly appears at the far reach of my vision it shifts from apparition to solidity slowly, my revolving wheels lessening the gap between us and changing fuzz to fur, brown, mottled, four legs, a slender torso, a long and narrow tail.

it is my coyote.  he has crossed the road south to north and disappeared into the tall grass and scrub edging the asphalt.  I watch the spot with intensity, wondering if he will wait and watch me pass as he often does.  the steep grade retards my approach and I am still half a dozen yards away when a howl shatters the air.  bark, bark, howl.  I see him now, he sits in the sage and cheatgrass, his back to me, and howls.  another bark, and a long howl sent out over the valley opening below him.  the sound dancing on those lingering particles of dawn, dropping on trees and shrubs, falling on leaves, tickling the ears and minds of squirrels and rabbits. 

parallel to him, now uphill of him, he howls again, ignoring me, or perhaps serenading me with nonchalant neglect.  I pedal, he howls, I reach the top of the climb after his vocalizations have ceased, their reverberations no longer trembling blades of grass. the air is still, and the sun, lifting itself over the furthest eastern mountain, has removed the last vestiges of dawn and what had been soft is now sharp, what was unclear is now illuminated.

this morning’s sighting is my seventh, and each has brought me as much delight as the one before.  it’s an unspoken hope each time I ride, let the coyote cross my path today.  he is curious and, other than the single concert, silent.  for a canine he is surprisingly cat-like, his paws like fog.  he has dashed across the road behind my descending wheels, he has hovered on the side of the road.  he has feinted toward me like a pugilist, then apparently thought better of it and retreated to the shoulder to watch me pass.  I’ve been studiously ignored; I’ve been studied as though I’m the first human he’s encountered.  he brings what’s untamed, wild, to my border and dares to cross into my land.

great horned owls hunt in my canyon as the sky releases its deepest ink and the world becomes one of silhouette, their wings spread wide in flight, to scan, to attack.  I look to treetops, utility poles, seeking that familiar elliptical shape focused on examination of the shrubs and ground below.  details cloaked, it is shape, silhouette, everything dark against a sky of baltic blue.  porcupines amble and deer startle, bounding up hillsides of scrub oak and balsamroot.  a stretch of road is silent, then the cacophony of bird song reigns for the next mile.  raccoon eyes shimmer between scrubby brush, a rabbit turns tail and runs.  but not a creature is anything like my coyote.

perhaps it is the teeth, its predatory nature, the fact that it is only size that keeps me from being at risk.  or perhaps it’s that he is only evolutionary steps away from being a household pet.  that my mind and heart think dog when he trots across the road or seems to consider interaction.
or maybe it’s the howl.  a howl that send shivers up spines, that declares desires and needs, that energizes air and speaks to all within earshot.

the canyon is not mine, nor the coyote. but at the edge of dawn and day when all is dirt brown and muddy green, I am transported to a world of deepest truth and being by four-legged creatures that leap and amble, bound and jump and trot, and, when all my stars align, occasionally and resonantly, howl.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

at odds

I have this thing about honoring commitments.  doing what you say you're going to do.  integrity.
so when I fail to keep my word, I am at odds with myself.

I'm at odds with myself.

which means out of sorts, in conflict, not in integrity.

the reason I'm there is because I've committed to posting here regularly, and I haven't been.  I'm in one of those phases that most writers eventually move into (and hopefully through) where writing isn't coming easily.  the phrase I'll never write again dances through my mind, dipping and twirling and taunting; flirting.

in the past few weeks I've ridden a 140-mile fundraising ride for cancer research, a self-made century following a route I've wanted to ride for years, and multiple terrific, awesome, beautiful, challenging, and difficult rides.  I've seen owls in flight, listened to crickets and grasshoppers, stared a deer in the eye, and had a coyote howl and bark and yip as it sat fifteen feet away from me.
I've sweated and glowed, ached and revived.  I've laughed, smiled, and sang as I pedaled.  I've sworn.

but I haven't been able to come home and write about it.

so I'm apologizing for not keeping my commitment, because it doesn't sit well with me.

july 19, 2008, I began writing here and committed to posting daily.  eventually I pulled back a bit, and committed to posting only on odd days.  then I wanted more freedom, and agreed with myself to post weekly, or more often if spirit moved me.
and now, almost 6 years into this blog, I am again negotiating with myself for an agreement that allows me to be in integrity . . .
so I will post when I do.
no more, no less, no conflict, no being at odds with myself.

I'm making peace with myself, and hoping that when the world ~ spirit, nature, what is ~ moves me, I will find a way to share it here that will make it worthwhile for both you and me.


Monday, June 2, 2014

hand shadows

my babies are graduating high school, one last saturday and one this coming wednesday.
this is a big deal.
I've been parenting for over 23 years, and although I won't stop being a parent, with these events my role changes dramatically.  in a way, I'm done.

yesterday I rode up millcreek canyon.  the upper half of the canyon is gated and closed to cars from november through june, and during those months the road is used by hikers, cyclists, walkers, dog-walkers, and when the road is covered with snow, skiers and snowshoers.
not long after I'd passed the gate and begun the second half of the climb, I noticed a little boy toddling along with his father, coming down the road.
it was still early in the morning and the sun was before me as I rode up the canyon, eastward.  the dad was behind his son, his hands up above his head, thumbs entwined, hands together, and it hit me: he's making shadows on the road for his son.

I haven't made shadow pictures for my children in years and years.
my children haven't toddled down roads in years.
my children aren't children anymore.

it's been a long road.
there have been seemingly unending climbs, and gates.  some swooping, a few crashes.
stunning vistas and bleak, gray mornings.  ferocious winds, headwinds, tailwinds, crosswinds.  astonishingly calm hours, easy flat stretches, gradual descents filled with coasting.
bumps, rises, uneven pavement, frost heaves, terrible patch jobs, litter in the lane.
sightings of wildlife, fear, pure joy, apprehension, loss.
rewards, accomplishments, peaks, certificates of completion, medals, hugs.
more bumps.
glorious unending tailwinds, crisp air, joyful descents.

and through it all, a constant commitment to pedaling.

we, like most every family out there, have had our ups and downs.  it's virtually impossible to have one without the other.  and we're now here at the next milestone, where paths spread before us, options, choices, decisions to be made.  one of my daughters will soon be heading to the north northwest, and the other to the south south west.
and I'll be here, still pedaling.  still being a parent, but in a very different way.

still pedaling up, still swooping, and always--forever--holding them in my heart with me as I pedal along whatever roads rise up to greet me.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

can't we all just get along?

I did not see my coyote friend this morning.
but over the hill and down the other side

I saw two little deer.

I hope my coyote friend doesn't see the two little deer.

Monday, May 12, 2014

common sense, gut, instinct, desire

the forecast was rain.
it rained, then it slowed, then it stopped.  the roads began drying.
the hourly forecast said that at 11am there was a 0 % chance of precipitation, and at noon there was a 30% chance of precipitation.
I hopped on my bike.

I rode up the canyon, mostly under blue skies with sun on my head and a tailwind at my back.
at the top, I turned to look behind me and saw, mmm, clouds.
common sense:  says turn around and go home now.
gut: pulls me back home
instinct: gonna disregard it
desire:  tells me keep going, go to the gate, what's another 15 or 20 minutes?

I rode to the gate.
turning around, the wind slapped me and the clouds had piled heavily and darkly above the summit, the place I was headed.
at the summit, I pulled on my rain jacket, watching the rolling, misty clouds hang over the road I was about to descend. then thunder clapped its gleeful hands, and I wondered just what a cyclist is supposed to do during thunderstorms.  lightening, rubber tires, hmmm.
ten yards down, the rain drops started splatting on my helmet, my shoulders, my hands and knees.
I started singing My Girl, the part that goes, I've got sunshi-ine, on a cloudy day....
I kept singing and smiling and laughing as rain drops kept falling.
the first two miles were fine.
and then all hell broke loose.

wind screamed and whipped, sleet-y hail-y rain came down in a torrent, the road quickly began flooding in spots and edges. I slowed, gripped the handlebars tightly with one hand so I could hold the other hand above my eyes, trying to protect my face from the onslaught.
I stopped singing.
gusts caught me, and I slowed further. I thought about finding cover, but more than anything just wanted to be home . . . so I kept going.  hail pinged my helmet and dashed my face.
six miles to go, then five.
my feet squished with each pedal crank, and I was so thoroughly soaked I could feel the weight of water in all my clothing, pulling me down, maybe stabilizing me as cross winds shoved.
four miles, three, out of the canyon, two.
I took a shortcut, one.

I unpeeled in the laundry room, wrapping myself in a spare towel, wet footprints following me directly into the hot shower.

sometimes I need to honor common sense, and tell my desire to keep quiet.  feel my gut, listen to instinct. if only I could teach myself to do that while I'm on a mountaintop, in fresh air, surrounded by nature, flushed with joy and accomplishment . . .
perhaps next time.