Tuesday, June 29, 2010

helper bee

sunday morning I woke at four-forty-something, dressed, prepared a to-go cup of coffee, grabbed the things I'd set out the night before and stowed them away in the car, then plunked myself behind the wheel and set off for Blacksmith Fork Canyon.
this was the most aggressive thing I'd done in at least ten days, and I was hoping I was up for the adventure.

this last weekend was the MS fundraising bike ride, which I had to sit out.
this was not easy.
saturday my bad ass cycling team met early in the morning at the fairgrounds in logan, rallying for the 100-mile ride that began at seven. they eased each others' pre-ride jitters, drank a bit of coffee, gathered for the team photo, then took off at the very front of the ride, a place of honor given to them for being the highest fund-raising team of the previous year.
saturday I sat on the couch and moped.

the bad ass team also sponsors a rest stop along the route, where they provide water and electrolyte drinks, fruit, snacks, temporary hawaiian-themed tattoos, spritzes of water, sunblock, bug spray, paper towels, sunglasses cleaning, and general cheer. their rest stop on saturday was in weston, idaho.
sunday dawns bright and early with another ride (just a 75-mile max this day), which many of the bad ass riders complete as well. on sunday the team sponsors another rest stop, this one located at the top of Blacksmith Fork Canyon, at the Hardware Ranch, 23 miles into the ride.

I'd decided earlier in the week that if I felt up to it, I'd like to help out at the rest stop, showing a little team spirit. by friday I knew I wasn't ready to be at the saturday event, but after hours of moping around on saturday I decided I would give sunday a shot.

thus, 7:20 am found me at the Hardware Ranch, ready to help the other bad ass volunteers set up the rest stop. let me just say, what a production. I think it's a given in the cycling-event circuit that not all rest stops are created equal; the bad ass team knows how to do it right.
our first cyclists arrived at 8:30, and for the next 3 hours I greeted and held bikes and chatted and cleaned sunglasses . . . and saw the backside of a cycling event.
these are just a few of the things I learned:

  • very, very, very few people look really good in lycra bike shorts.
  • a great many people like to hang out for a while at rest stops.
  • lots of people like to have their picture taken at such rest stops (my apologies to all, as I am not a fabulous photographer).
  • I don't like guys in short short cycling shorts.
  • I prefer guys to wear jerseys with at least some bit of a sleeve.
  • there are about as many different body types out there as there are people.
  • some cyclists are very, very proud of their bicycles.
  • apparently Breathe Right strips can help cyclists with narrow nasal passages have a more enjoyable ride.
  • I can survive experiencing envy.
it was good to be on the other side for once. I felt some sadness at not riding, but also knew that I physically couldn't have done it. these balanced out into a feeling of gratitude for just being part of something bigger than myself.

I left the Hardware Ranch at 11:40 that morning, passing the final handful of cyclists on their descent at different places on the way down. I gave them a wide berth and a smile and wave, and knew that I would soon be able to be just like them, out on my bike, heading down from the peak of a unique and beautiful utah canyon.
see ya out there soon.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

hoary cress

so I've been wanting to write about hoary cress for quite a while now, but have been distracted by a few other things.
I may have heard about hoary cress before two weeks ago, but I certainly didn't remember the term, and since I believe a great many of you must be in this same boat, I am going to forthwith tell you the story of hoary cress, as viewed through my (somewhat selective and slightly skewed) eyes.

many many years ago a wild and wicked weed lived a life of carefree bliss across the welcoming fields and vales of the balkan penisula, turkey, iraq, and neighboring countries.
one day a traveler set his tired body down upon a large and curved rock to draw a lump of bread from his sack and rest. the wind was mainly mild and gentle, but would occasionally burst forth with a small gust, sending loose leaves and tiny seeds scattering about. a small handful of such seeds, from the frothy, white-topped hoary cress, floated upon the gust and with its cessation, settled into folds in the weary traveler's trousers.
some weeks later our traveler found work in the alfalfa fields, harvesting and readying seed to be sent to market. a couple of the stowaway hoary cress seeds fell from his trousers into a bag that slowly worked its way from market, to a ship which bore it across the atlantic, to long island, new york, in the bonny year of 1862.

and from these few, errant seeds, this noxious, invasive weed has worked its way across our continent, infesting pristine areas and choking out native plants, often creating dense monocultures whose roots connect deep beneath the soil's surface.

thus many states, including our very own state of utah, send worker bees out in late spring and early summer to spray hillsides where the hoary cress has spread, reducing both biodiversity and wildlife habitats.
and it was two such worker bees I passed while on my slow-ride-on-chip-seal two weeks ago.
I saw the truck pulled off to the side of the road near little dell, and could tell the men working the hose were obviously spraying something up on the hillside. curious, I thought, as this area seems to be fairly well left on its own.
when I passed them again, on my way back up, I decided to ask what they were spraying for (against?) and this is when I learned of a noxious, invasive, white-crested weed named hoary cress.
[all research errors are my own, as the worker bees provided nothing but the name, a physical identification, and the two descriptors used above.]

there is always something to learn if one has a curious nature, and I'm sure my little but quite busy brain will never, ever, become full.

Friday, June 25, 2010

taking a pass

ok, it's my birthday, and I really don't feel like writing.
so, I'm going to take a birthday pass today, just because I can.

but before I go, I will say this: I don't care for oxycodone, percocet, morphine, naproxen, or just about anything in those varied classes of pain killers.

the good news is this: I would make a terrible drug addict, and I plan to stay that way.

here's to all of us 48-year-old women who bike!!!
(I plan to be one, soon!)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


like at one of those carnival midway games, my mental gun is trying to shoot quickly fleeting, amorphous words from a indistinct background.
it's not working so well.
perhaps tomorrow it will work better.
or the next day.

until then, if you didn't already know, surgery stinks.
well, actually, those two hours were fine.
it's just the aftermath.

all is well, but will be weller tomorrow, and I'm just grateful it wasn't worse.

Monday, June 21, 2010


there exist periods in our lives of outwardly-enforced down time.
I am experiencing one of such right now, and it is not entirely negative.

had I not wrecked and injured myself last tuesday I would have accomplished a great deal more in the past five days. but perhaps ~ just perhaps ~ what I've been accomplishing instead is even more important that the unweeded flowerbeds, the dusty furniture, the unwritten notes, the uncooked meals, the growing pile of laundry, and the other myriad tasks that lay about in states ranging from "never begun" to "almost completed, but not quite."

it hasn't been easy.
each time I look outside I ache to be out there cleaning up my yard.
I look at heavy items that need to be somewhere else and I have to consciously move my attention away.
everything I do I do more slowly, each task takes twice as long as it would have a week ago.
although I can still type fairly well, my arm develops an ache the longer I continue and I pay the price later on.

but I've also had time for things I've put off for quite some time, and even more importantly, I feel this strangely inexplicable sense of peace. it's all just fine that I can't ride my bike, can't mow the lawn, can't weed the garden. it's okay that I can't unload the dishwasher or drive my car.
the universe has told me to slow down, and it finally found a way to make me listen. thankfully, it didn't take away all of my abilities, and thus I am left in a place of puttering.

I walked to the bank the other day.
I actually sat and watched a television program without multi-tasking.
I had a phone conversation without multi-tasking.
I folded laundry, slowly and carefully, taking time with each piece and resting between folds.
I breathed deeply (though not too deeply, as that hurts) and chewed my food thoroughly.
I cleaned a counter, slowly, with my left hand, paying complete attention to what I was doing.
these are all new experiences, ones done with deliberation and patience.

later this morning is my clavicle surgery, and I'm expecting that to slow me down even more.
is there a state of movement less than puttering? will I soon be pottering or poking or frittering?
I'll soon be doing something less, and I will have to adjust again.
and then eventually I'll begin doing something more, moving back into fiddling, then up to puttering and before we know it, I'll be back to Accomplishing Things the way I used to.
but maybe some of this down time will have affected my psyche, and I'll remember the good old days when I took extra time for each step of my day. when I still got done what Absolutely Needed To Be Done, and saved everything else for the next day.
or the next.

and everything was just fine.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


did you notice I wasn't here tuesday?
I noticed, but only in a fuzzy, hazy, morphine-induced witless way.
in other words, I was "in hospital" as they say across the water, having crashed on my bicycle early tuesday morning.
yes, my wonderful Biking Anniversary celebration plan went splat on the bike trail two miles into my 50-mile ride up Big Cottonwood.
rip, tear,

my right clavicle has two breaks in it, my right achromion is chipped, and I have a few broken ribs over there as well.
as well, the shorts are shredded, the jacket has a few serious scrapes and a new hole, the helmet is scraped and cracked, one water bottle lid is smashed and ruined, and I have some slightly-tender spots of road rash decorating my right side from my forehead to my calf. oh, and the bruise on my left inner calf, from the pedal, I suppose. oops, I forgot, the banana looks pretty bad, too, bruised and decidedly squished mid-section.

I do not know exactly what happened ("did you lose consciousness?" was one of the top questions at the hospital, to which I answered, um, I really don't know . . . what does that say about it? ), only that at one moment I was upright and saw a large weed-thingee leaning across the bike (and my) path, and the next moment I'm aware of I was on the ground crying out, oh God, oh God, oh I hurt, oh God . . .
he heard and sent a few helpers, I limped my way back over the bike path to a spot where a car could pick me up, and a wonderful friend of those great helpers (his name is Matt something, perhaps Thomas?) gave me and my bike a ride up to the emergency room, where another helper-be filled out the form for me because my right hand didn't feel like playing the writing game.

and now I am mostly back to the living. amidst countless offers of help and concern, and some pretty uncomfortable sleeping hours. this big bump-ridge-thingee on my clavicle gives me the willies, and I try not to think about the pictures.
as my amazing I-am-so-honored-to-have-this-person-as-a-friend friend ivy says, now I am in excellent company: lance and I will now both have titanium plates on our clavicles. woo hoo.
yep, surgery monday, after which the surgeon tells me I'll be able to hop back on my bike.


at this moment, I don't know that I want to do that.

but I've been without coffee for a couple days, and I'm really not back to my real self yet, so I'm going to give that a while to change. because the tao of cycling wouldn't be much without the cycling part, in fact, it would just be the tao of, and I don't think I'm qualified to pontificate on such a vast and limitless subject.

no, I am not on painkillers.

so, chances are I will eventually (okay, soon) be back on my bike, though I might take it a bit easy for a while. which is okay, because there's still a lot of life to observe on quiet rides throughout the neighborhood, and little, leisurely jaunts up small canyons, and really, just about anywhere one chooses to go.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

velvet and foxes

I have a friend who spent the weekend in another state, and I received a text yesterday that said, saw a fox!
I was immediately jealous and quite put out. I've been riding all over our canyons and lonely places for years and have seen nary a fox. very little wildlife at all, relative to all of the hours I spend out and about in the early morning hours.
why haven't I seen a fox?
when's it going to be my turn?
my pout lasted about ninety seconds, and then I got on with life.

it rained yesterday, almost incessantly. gale force winds came with it, whipping supple foliage to near horizontal positions and pushing less flexible flora to its limits. it cleared twice, the road just beginning to dry before it all began again. I thought I'd be able to sneak a ride in between the bouts of rain, but by about 9 am I decided I was quite happy to spend the day indoors, working and puttering and watching twigs and branches fly past.
as evening was settling in the rain stopped and the wind calmed, and I ventured outdoors to pick up organic litter from my lawn. two large branches and a quarter thousand good-sized twigs later, my yard looked almost as it had the day before, if one disregarded the thousand bright green leaves scattered everywhere.
therefore, this morning when I woke to the sound of cars driving past on dry pavement, I was determined to jump on my bike before the rain came back.
my knee was hurting a bit and I wasn't feeling terribly energetic, so I decided a wasatch boulevard tour was in order, heading south for twenty miles or so before turning to head back.
I left the driveway and looked skyward---gray and cloudy---then turned my eyes lower, to the tops of the foothills. to the south, unfortunately, I couldn't see the tops of the foothills, as they were covered with low-hanging, damp-looking clouds. to the north things looked brighter and clear, and thus I ended up heading up emigration.
I worked out a path in my mind, possibly heading toward east canyon but turning around before the steepness set in for good (it was "give my knee a break" day), then somehow finding more miles, possibly back down on wasatch, given a clearer picture by that time.
as things always go, I changed my mind. I did the first part, turning around halfway up big mountain, but then I decided to go down to mountain dell golf course and washington park. which meant a hill on the way back up. I chuckled to myself, yeah, no climbing today.

the lower hills surrounding little dell reservoir were velvet, rich with rain growth, solid masses of multi-shaded green velvet. lush growth is everywhere, absolutely everywhere, yellow and purple and white flowers throwing their heads up only to save us from drowning in the voluptuous sea of green.

washington park is a little treasure nestled at the east end of the golf course, cool and tree-shaded and significantly underutilized. I rode through to its far pavilion, then turned to head back to the golf course then up the big hill to the reservoir.
the road past the golf course slopes down toward the freeway exit, and I was enjoying the effortless speed when ahead on the road, in my lane, I saw a small shape. I slowed, the slowed more as I kept my eyes focused on the peculiar, long legged animal staring back at me, motionless but for a slight twitching of pointed ears.
red-tinted fur, black legs, pointy little vixenish face . . . oh my gosh, I am looking at a fox.
as this kicks in, I notice movement to my left and there are three little kits, golden brown and kitten-faced, staring at me as well from just outside their earthen den.
I stare at mom, I turn my eyes slowly to look at the kits. mom moves tentatively, closer to the berm, and I send her every vibe I possess that says I'm safe.
mom finally heads off into the shrubs, knowing that her kits are separated from me by a chain link fence, and that I, human in a neon green jacket, couldn't possibly want to cause her family harm.
I dig for my phone, and try to operate the camera function as the kits playfully wind amongst themselves and cease to worry about me. two take off to the west, and one remains by the mouth of the den. I've snapped my silly photo, and finally begin to move on, keeping an eye on both sides of the road. mom doesn't come back out, and then I see the two kits joined with yet another, twenty feet from the den, and I grin one of the biggest grins of my life.
I pedal on down the road, singing out loud one of those songs you learn in camp,
oh the fox went out on a chilly night, and it prayed to the moon for to give it light
for it'd many a mile to go that night, before it reached the town-o, town-o, town-o . . .

I sang halfway up the hill, and I haven't stopped grinning yet.

destination unknown

sometimes when I leave my house on my bike I know exactly where I'm going.
and sometimes I don't.
I equivocate: this would be good, but so would that, and this way will get me there, but this other way might be better, hmmm, what do I feel like doing, where do I want to go?

so, at times, I find myself approaching an intersection without a defined sense of which way my path leads.
I usually decide right before it's too late to change my mind, and find myself suddenly freed.
until the next intersection.

this usually happens on recovery days (because there is no good path) or questionable weather days (when I try to out-guess the clouds).
and the result is, almost always, a perfectly perfect ride that I never could have predicted.

now how much of this is just plain old good luck and how much is a result of intuition, I can't really say. my guess would be it's more the latter than the former, but then I tend to be that kind of a person.

how many times have you started one way, then changed your mind or flowed with some other guidance and suddenly found yourself doing something quite different that your original intent? and how often does this experience tend to have a bit of serendipity within?

last sunday's foxes, for example. when I left my house I had absolutely no intention of biking on that particular stretch of road where the kits were playing. and had I not twisted here and turned there, I never would have seen them.

I have turned left instead of right and avoided rain, seen rainbows, been startled by wildlife, met friends, discovered new vistas, found money . . . (okay, not the last one, well, yet, that is).
there is much to be said for flowing with this underlying intuitive process that none of us completely understand.
the lyrics to the song have been running through my head ever since I've thought about writing about this topic, and I think I'm going to let them stay there. I'm learning to believe there's something quite wonderful about approaching aspects of life with your destination unknown.

Friday, June 11, 2010


I love gates. snow gates. the kind of gates that are pulled across the roads and locked tight for the winter season, allowing snowplows some time off and those of us who enjoy non-motorized sports some time on.
I often use gates as landmarks for timing myself, or for checking miles per hour in one direction compared to the other (let's see, I'm riding up this road at 14.7 mph, I wonder how fast I'll be riding down this road at the same spot, oh, I'll use this gate as the spot to check myself on the way down...).
when riding up big cottonwood canyon I know that I average one hour eight minutes from the base to the big gate, and once I reach the big gate it's only another 35 or so minutes to the top.
you know I love the east canyon gate, which remains blissfully shut and locked six months of the year.
some gates remain shut longer, and I am amazed by the willingness of the forest/park services to let us walkers, runners, hikers, and cyclists own these roads for so many months of the year.

I rode around one such gate this morning, the one half-way up millcreek canyon. this gate remains locked until july 1st each summer, and then it is unlocked for a mere four months until the sweeping metal arms are drawn shut again for the snow to pile, untouched, upon the narrow swath of asphalt that winds its way to the meadow at the top.
each of the past three springs I've ridden up millcreek, past the gate, and then at some point been thwarted by snow-packed stretches that have kept me from reaching the top. june is the best time to ride millcreek, when you can possibly get all the way to the top while you definitely have a road to ride that's free of cars.
it has other things: pine needles and cones galore, fallen timber and twigs, the debris of a winter without plowing, and walkers/runners/dogs/bicyclists. which all ~ especially the tail-wagging, grinning dogs ~ bring a smile to my face.
this morning the canyon also gave me a few opportunities to dismount and ford the snowbanks.
about five times, when four-to-ten foot stretches of snow lay thick and frozen across the road, daring me to pass them and climb onward toward the top.
they threw their frozen, bike-tire tracked gauntlets down in front of me, and I picked the darn things up. where others have travailed, I, too, will travel.

have I told you that I am determined?

the parking lot at the top of the canyon road is clear of snow but littered with dog droppings that have fallen as the snow has melted, and the yurt remains tented. it was a quiet place this morning, cold and seemingly motionless, though I know better.

five more fords on the way down that last half-mile to the top, and then a bitterly cold descent that brought me back down to a snowless world where fording is unnecessary and only a distant, yet exhilarating, memory.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

four stories

a list of the many things I could write about today:

  • chip seal, or, how to get rid of cyclists on the road
  • branches do not break on their own, or, there's a deer in there
  • roadside flotsam, or, is that really a pair of men's dress shoes sitting by that rake?
  • mysteries solved, or, aha, that's why there were four cars parked at the mouth of the canyon at 5:40 this morning

I do reserve the right to revisit any or all of these topics at some later date.
but for now, here are the short stories:

they are putting chip seal down on emigration canyon. I rode six miles of it this morning, and it belongs in the category titled Not Fun. especially when they leave little piles of gravel (oops! forgot to spread that out!) for our skinny little tires to navigate. farewell, smooth asphalt . . . by the way, do you know what chip seal really is? it's just a bunch of (hopefully) small gravel held together with wings and prayers. okay, held together by pressure and a little tiny bit of oily stuff. the powers that be believe it's a cheaper way to pave a road, and I'm awfully tempted to place a call to said powers and have a discussion about quality paying off in the long run. or I could just be patient and let that chip seal crush in upon itself and eventually form a smooth (er) surface. sigh.

while I was riding on said chip seal this morning I heard a branch snap, up and to my right, and saw the swinging broken piece, perhaps 10 yards away. I thought, how odd, branches don't usually just suddenly break and fall all by themselves, but perhaps this is just one example of a tree falling in a forest, only making noise if someone is there to hear it . . . as I approached the sight of the broken branch I heard rustling in the bushes, though, and a flash of brown fur, which I know belonged to the deer I'd seen just a half mile back, flouncing through the wild growth. there is an explanation for everything, if one just employs patience.

there's really not much more to say here. there was a plastic rake lying on the shoulder beside the road, and next to it, a pair of black, suede-like men's shoes. I have no idea.

I love a good mystery. as well, I am fairly observant and quite curious.
so this morning as I swooped down from the golf course to begin heading up emigration, I noticed that there were four cars parked alongside each other in the parking lot at the canyon's mouth. now there are cars there some mornings, but usually only one or two, and the four-in-a-row thing was odd. only one had a noticeable bike rack on it. I pondered this sign. hmmm. could be runners. could be cyclists who keep their bikes in their cars. maybe I just didn't see the bike racks. maybe they're walkers. I have no idea.
so I rode. and didn't see anyone running, or walking. didn't even see another cyclist until a mile or so from the little mountain summit, when a single female heading down went past.
I crested the top and kept going, not another cyclist in sight.
I went past the reservoir and on toward big mountain, with just an occasional thought about the mystery car. they must have gone somewhere else, perhaps trail running or something. I shrugged my mental shoulders and focused on breathing, muscles flexing and straining as I climbed up and up.
a quarter mile from the top of big mountain two guys came swooshing down, and then a hundred yards behind them came the other two.
I grinned.
mystery solved.
sometimes it just takes a little patience.

Monday, June 7, 2010

the trickster

I've seen three coyotes in the past two weeks, all of them up close and (relatively) personal. so of course my mind moves to the inevitable conclusion that the universe must be trying to communicate with me.
the first was in big cottonwood canyon, the second in emigration, and the third, in parley's. I hadn't seen a coyote before these sitings for at least two years, if not more. and then three within two weeks?
obviously, definitely, a message.

in native american lore the coyote is a famed creature, known as the trickster. tale after tale exists that speak of his creativity, his sneakiness, his ability to make a fool of himself and still come out on top, and his ability to change the very way of the world. here's a brief story to demonstrate:

Coyote and the Columbia
(Sahaptin/Salishan Tribes)
retold by
S. E. Schlosser

One day, Coyote was walking along. The sun was shining brightly, and Coyote felt very hot.
"I would like a cloud," Coyote said.
So a cloud came and made some shade for Coyote. Coyote was not satisfied.
"I would like more clouds," he said. More clouds came along, and the sky began to look very stormy. But Coyote was still hot.
"How about some rain," said Coyote. The clouds began to sprinkle rain on Coyote.
"More rain," Coyote demanded. The rain became a downpour.
"I would like a creek to put my feet in," said Coyote. So a creek sprang up beside him, and Coyote walked in it to cool off his feet.
"It should be deeper," said Coyote.
The creek became a huge, swirling river. Coyote was swept over and over by the water. Finally, nearly drowned, Coyote was thrown up on the bank far away. When he woke up, the buzzards were watching him, trying to decide if he was dead.
"I'm not dead," Coyote told them, and they flew away.
That is how the Columbia River began.

the coyote is resourceful, intelligent, adaptable; in fact, he is the most so of all mammals.

in the spiritual world the coyote represents opportunity, stealth, creativity, experience, new life, and illumination. he represents both folly and wisdom, and the balance between the two. the coyote teaches us to see through our foolish acts, laugh at them, and then gain the wisdom from this process.

and what does this all mean for me? I don't yet know. perhaps the message they are bringing me is that I have overcome my foolishness and increased my sagacity; perhaps the message is to watch out for what's still to come. perhaps they are simply acknowledging my own resourcefulness, my intelligence, my adaptability, and reminding me of the creative powers I hold deep within.

whatever the message may be, I have reveled in each siting and been grateful for it. the thought of the devious and excessively fortunate trickster crossing my path again and again brings a great smile to my face, and I dare to hope for just one more coyote, please, before the month is out.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

naps and other rewards

I need to be clear: it is not high on my list of Favorite Things to Do to get up at 5 am. or even 5:13.
I don't like the pressure to get to bed early the night before, nor the grogginess and difficulty of pushing myself out over the edge of my mattress and onto the floor. nor the creaking and groaning muscles, ligaments, tendons, and limbs.
I do not like it sam I am.

but being out in the cool morning air, listening to bird chatter and leaf rustling, watching the sky change and the light hit earthen grooves to create shadows and reliefs, and finally reaching the top of the hill and looking out at the kingdom one possesses makes those early awakenings completely, entirely worth it.

I find the symbiosis between working for something and reaping a reward to be similar to my getting-up-and-then-eventually-being-grateful scenario: almost every effort is more meaningful when a benefit, reward, or some other pampering or indulgence follows, and in return, the enjoyment gained from those rewards is exponentially increased when serious effort is involved in the work.

for example, this afternoon's nap was so well earned (early early morning ride up big mountain, three hours of mom-time at the lacrosse field, lawn mowing, edging, laundry, and house cleaning all preceded said event) that I just lay there with a smile on my face until I drifted off. I was bone tired and that nap was glorious.

I believe we are programmed to find fulfillment in accomplishment, to find joy in stretching ourselves, to delight in discovering extended boundaries to our abilities. we will never know what we're capable of until we push the next limit.
within reason.
I'm still not ready (and predict I will never be so) to join the adventure racing crowd, or the ironman participant crew, or even that large faction of triathletes.
that's okay. I seem to find plenty other ways to challenge myself and push my boundaries just a little further than their last placement.

and then I take a nap.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

me and louis

lest you think I've stopped loving utah, I must tell you about yesterday's ride.
it was a simple thing, up emigration and down to little dell and back, but I spent most of it swiveling my head back and forth, up to the left, up to the right, admiring the green hillsides and the lush growth spurting from yards along the way. the sky was blue and the pavement was still damp in places from the early morning rain, and the temperature hovered right in the perfect zone for my entire ride. (that would be mid-60's, possibly upper 60's for my descent, sunshine throughout.)
even the road workers were pleasant.
they're getting to know me, I think: they've been patching and filling cracks for the past ten days or so, and they are awfully kind to all of us bicyclists whipping through between their SLOW and STOP signs.
(but as I reflect on this, I've decided that I'm full of self-aggrandizement to think that they're recognizing me. hundreds, if not a thousand, of bikers must past them during the day, and who am I to think that they're remembering little old me? )
the most beautiful piece yesterday was the scene to my east as I rode through the golf course: the foothills are thick with green growth, rounding and shaded in each groove and crevasse. the golf course itself has never looked richer, and the sweet air, cool and just slightly damp, completed my magical experience.

it all brings to mind a conversation I had last weekend about riding bicycles in different locales. one could fly across the ocean to ride in hawaii or france, or one could drive 2000 miles to ride in maine and vermont, or one could leave from their own driveway. each experience would be rich and distinguishable from the others, but it is terribly difficult to rank them. I know I talked up the ouray to red mountain pass ride, and I was truly awed by my experience there, but as I looked at our snow-dusted mountain peaks today I fell right back into my spot of loving this place in which I live and ride.

my conclusion, then, is that there are so many beautiful, stunning, awe-inspiring places in this world in which I might ride my bicycle that I will never be able to experience even a small percentage of them. I choose to be grateful for each one I do encounter, and will work toward discovering more of them close to home as I fill up my piggy bank for the ones somewhat farther away.

picture if you will louis armstrong's generous cheeks and twinkling eyes, his gentle girth and his love for making music, and perhaps you'll even be able to hear his voice in your head singing the chorus of one of my very favorite ~ and appropriate, today ~ songs:

and I think to myself,
what a wonderful world . . .

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I've been putting this off all day because I don't know where to begin.
well actually, there are a couple other reasons: I'm tired, I've been a bit busy, I've been shivering and huddling under blankets, and I can't seem to stop putting food and drink into my body.
outside of those reasons, though, I still don't really know where to begin.
so I'll just jump right into the 60.

we stayed in a house about 5 miles north of the start, a place on a county road, fairly peaceful and private. private from the rest of town, that is, not necessarily from the other twelve people staying there with me.
we rode to the start, a nice little warm-up, and then took off on the Big Ride, Durango to Silverton. part of our crew raced the event, some of them reading their printed names in the results section of next day's paper, and five of us just (just) rode the thing.
it's not all uphill. there are some rollers, some flat sections, and even two grand descents. but the serious uphill begins like a punch in the gut: you're coming around a curve with some speed and all of the sudden you're moving at the pace of a strolling elephant. and it doesn't change too much for the next six miles. this is where, last year, I lost a crown in a shot block (these things aren't supposed to crunch, are they?) and swore (complete with swear words) that I would never--ever--do this ride again.
this year went much better. it was about 25 degrees warmer, the ground was 100 percent drier, and my performance came with only 75 percent of the previous year's pain.
can't ask for more than that, but we got it anyway: gorgeous blue skies, cheerful support people, nice blue markings on the road to alert us to bumps, dips, and potholes, and one of the most incredible vistas available in the western united states.
we came home chipper, cleaned up and went out to eat, came back and watched a movie about extreme skiers, then went to sleep feeling like we'd accomplished something significant.

there's always the next day. let's see, should we go for a run? a recovery ride? something slightly challenging? or should we, gulp, take advantage of the fact that we're in this extraordinary locale and go find some more mountains to climb?
some of us chose the former (which turned into a 6-hour, 17-mile trail run, which is a complete story on its own; thank goodness I can't tell it in the first person), and three of us, after much deliberation, hopped in the car and drove to silverton (elevation 9318') to go climb another mountain.
we decided to ride up to red mountain pass (elevation 11,018'), and then see how we felt before deciding whether or not to ride down into ouray (elevation 7770') and then (gulp) back up red mountain pass and eventually back down into silverton.
and this is what happened: the climb up to red mountain pass was so nicely paced, the grades completely manageable, that I got suckered into riding down into ouray and then back up.
it's written in bike grease on my forehead, sucker . . .
and I thank God I am one.
because this was perhaps the most stunning, beautiful, amazing ride I've ever been on. the thirteen mile stretch between red mountain pass and ouray is indescribable. waterfalls, sheer cliff drops, miles of pines, roads clinging to shelves cut from rock faces . . . and the worn and weather beaten sign telling us all that this land is America's Switzerland.
and I had plenty time to view it all, especially on my way back up, my bike moving not much faster than that lumbering elephant I mentioned earlier.
this was the unplanned ride, the gift, the experience that just happened to come together perfectly and cause me to nearly melt with gratitude.
or dehydration, not sure which it was, when I finally reached the end of the road.

it's so hard to go away and not take advantage of what you're driving through on the way to your destination. or on the way home. so, this time we had to stop in moab on the way home monday and go for a little ride. a recovery ride, after those two significant (6600' and 5000') climbing days.
no climbing on this ride, just a casual, easy cruise up along the colorado river and back.
the up was great: tailwind, easy grade, flying.
the down was a bugger: headwind, easier grade, grinding. groaning. okay, whining.
and it was beautiful: a landscape so dramatically different from the previous two days that I felt I was in a different country. from mountain passes to butted red rock in the space of hours, and to be able to ride them both within 24 hours: this is amazing to me.
I was parched and sweaty and tired by the end of those miles, and the shower behind the Poison Spider bicycle shop was that scale-tipping event that helped me keep moving forward, back on the path, moving toward the return home.

it's not the only way I've ever reached 135, but it might possibly be the best yet.