Thursday, July 19, 2012


it's been four years---quatre ans---since I created the tao of cycling and posted my first mini-essay.
although I've dropped back from posting daily to posting every other day, to posting only on prime numbered days (when I can figure that out), I've come to a fork in the road.
yep, one of my favorite pictures I dredged up from a past post.
the great thing about this kind of fork is that the tines are all leading to the same direction . . . they're just spaced slightly apart, and thus have parallel but slightly different trajectories.
it's time for me to move to a new tine for a span of time as my life adjusts itself around some fairly significant changes.
I'm really not a drone, but I do like depending on certain patterns, and setting expectations for my own behavior.  I like knowing that I will ride my bike 5-6 mornings a week, and that I will go to yoga at least once.  I've appreciated my commitment to this blog with its consistent posting "rules," and so as I let go of this a bit more, I am a bit bereft, thinking about how I will go forward.
if I'm not committed to posting daily, on odd days, on prime days, or ever . . . will I post?
will I feel a sense of freedom?
will I experience an increased desire to write and post?

sometimes when our "have to's" become "choose to's" we feel/think/behave differently in regards to them.
just knowing we have a choice in the matter can change our outlook.
I learned this years and years ago, when my oldest son was quite young.  his care demanded much from us physically and emotionally, and at times the weight was overwhelming.  one of our health care providers suggested, oh so gently, that we consider different ways of caring for him, one of which was that he live outside our home.  we did not make that choice, but just knowing we had options lightened our load.

so, I'll keep writing now and again, when I am inspired, when I experience the desire.  you will read me when you read me, and I hope the two come into a beautiful balance.
be well, and keep an eye out for forks in your own road.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

when the wind takes a breath

saturday's weather forecast was full of bluster:   windy, afternoon thunderstorms, an 80% chance of rain, likely to be heavy.
we planned a ride up a canyon, of course, and timed it so that we'd hit the top of the canyon right around noon.
need I say we got rained on?  
it started about halfway up---mile marker 8---big cottonwood canyon, the way it usually does:  a few drops, a splatter here and there, then a bit more consistently, until suddenly it's pelting your helmet and glasses and you are thoroughly wet. by mile marker 11 each pedal revolution was a squish and I had to shake my head regularly to throw pooling water off.  
silver fork lodge sits at mile marker 13:  our sopping group decided we could push on that far, then have a bite to eat and warm up before heading back down, forgoing our goal of riding all the way to brighton.
not too far past mile marker 12 the rain eased back a bit,
and while we were inside getting our water bottles filled---the restaurant was closed for a private wedding---the rain changed into a fine mist.
we voted to head up another mile and a half to solitude ski resort and find fare there . . . and before we were too far up the road the mist disappeared and we began to dry out.
all around us were clouds, thick, gray, heavy with moisture, below us all the way down the canyon and above us hanging thickly over the forested hillsides of brighton ski resort.
and we could feel the warmth of the sun as it heated the clouds and pressed down on us.

it felt like the eye of the storm:  all of us safe and warm, riding up the road, having survived the tempest below and slowly approaching the tempest above.
a breath, a break, a chance to revive and prepare for what was yet to come.

yesterday I rode up emigration into a typical headwind, hearing the whistle in my helmet and the gentle roar against my ears.
and then I didn't.
all was quiet, for a moment, and I looked about in wonder at the absence of sound.
a pause,
an intake of breath
before the wind blew once again.

a pause.  an inhalation.  the eye of the storm.  an oasis.
if life were nothing but a constant uphill, a never-ending rainstorm, a perpetual struggle, an unvarying path, we would all find our journeys to be more difficult.
I need pauses.  change.  variety.
I need to inhale deeply, then exhale down to my core, then breathe again.

the eye of our storm opened widely enough for me to get home saturday without another drenching.
and the pause while yesterday's wind took a breath gave me strength to batten down for its next exhalation.

a pause.  an inhalation.  eyes of storms, oases, refuge, respite:  opportunities to reconnect with the core of courage and strength that lies somewhere deep within, always waiting, knowing that eventually the world must inhale.

Friday, July 13, 2012

on saddles, on a saddle

saddles have been on my mind lately.
it started a few weeks ago when I rode from huntsville up east to monte cristo.
the monte cristo range is a 30-mile stretch, part of the larger wasatch mountain range.  highway 39 runs through it, and peaks at mt. mckinnon, 9081 feet above sea level.  it's about a 25-mile ride from huntsville to the top . . . or, well, that's what today's post is all about.
because each time I've ridden up this road I've thought I've reached the top.
until this last ride, when I realized I'd never before made it all the way through the top.

sometimes cyclists (and, admittedly, other humans as well) will talk about a false summit.  this can be either a decline or a leveling off after a high point on a climb--where you think you've reached the summit--which then turns into a further ascent.
the mt. nebo road has about 5 heart-breaking false summits:  upon reaching each one, you coast down its backside and lose just about everything you gained climbing its front, before doing the exact same thing again, and again.
the back side of big mountain has one that thrills me each time I reach it because (1) I need the break, and (2) it tells me I'm almost done with the climb.

monte cristo, however, has what I have decided to call a saddle.  it stretches for a few miles at the top, and it rolls and bit up, a bit down, a bit straight across.  you never feel as though there's a single, specific spot called the summit.  it's just an elongated saddle.
saddles are fine with me:  after all that work of getting up there, it's okay to have little climbs, little descents, and periods of relatively flat.

so I'd been thinking about saddles.
and then john noticed that my bike saddle was looking awfully worn, with a small spot where the top layer had actually peeled off.
how many miles do you think you've ridden on this saddle?
um, gee, let me think (my eyes roll up to the ceiling as I calculate), um, maybe 20,000 or so?
john bought me a new saddle.

and then I started wondering just how long a saddle should last.
a quick internet search told me that it can be calculated in hours spent riding (duh, darn good way to look at it!), and that 400-600 hours is a good maximum.
mine's had a good 1300 hours.
you can also go with a general 10,000 miles, 15,000 miles, or whatever number of miles someone throws out.
or, my favorite advice, ride a saddle until you start getting sores.

I have a new saddle.
it's firmer than my old one, and it's cleaner than my old one.  it's prettier.  you can still read the words "body geometry" printed on it.
there are no scratches on it, no scuff marks, no dings or darkening of the surface, anywhere.

wanna guess how long that will last?
not long, as I keep piling the miles on, climbing hills, reaching summits, and viewing the world from mountain-top saddles.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

nothing worth saying

I have nothing worth saying today.
it's hot,
I'm tired,
I'm tired of being hot.
I'm certain I'm not alone.
I'm tired,
it's hot,
I have nothing more to say today.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

the other problem with riding your bike all night long

is the recovery.

especially for us ahem older folk.  I am no longer 20, 30, or even 40.  or in my late forties.
I've finally hit that point where I can start blaming everything on how old I am.
my eyes are going,
it takes longer to recover from everything,
I need more naps.
I can't ride as fast,
I need help with housework,
reaching for things and bending are much more difficult.
um, let's see what else.
I've got to go to bed earlier,
I need more chocolate cake.

the day after the ride-all-night-ride I took 4 naps, and was so-so-so grateful to finally collapse in bed at 10:45 that night.
then I was grateful to collapse in bed the next night.
and I experienced that same gratitude last night.......
I'm already thinking about how excited I am to be going to bed in a few hours.

yep, I'm old.

gonna ride slower, gonna take longer to recover.
gonna take more naps, eat more chocolate cake, ask for more help.

there are obviously a few benefits of getting older .  .  .  I've heard one of those benefits is wisdom, but apparently---from observing that I committed to and actually followed through with riding my bike all night long---I haven't quite mastered that one yet.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

little towns that begin with e

out in the wilds of western wyoming is a little tiny town named etna.
it's on highway 89, close to the western border, about halfway north and halfway south.
etna lies near the north point of a forty-five mile stretch of land called star valley, and when you reach etna, you know you will soon be reaching the end of the valley.
when you've been riding your bike for hours and hours, have ridden up hills and down, and have spent the last two hours in the crosswinds of star valley, etna is one of the most beautiful sights on earth.

it was during my second lotoja that I came to appreciate etna.
for some reason, that little hamlet had stuck in my mind from the previous year's ride, it's small green sign stuck on a post beside the road, etna, pop. 124.
I'd battled my way through the winds of star valley and finally had some indication that it was coming to a close.  I pedaled through etna, then before I knew it, I was in alpine. I was finished with star valley, and I had a mere 47 miles left to ride before my long long day on the bike was over.
etna was my turning point, and each year since that first, I've smiled over that little green sign and been grateful that I was as far along as I was.

two days ago I wrote that I was hopping on my bike to ride all night long . . . and I'd let you know how it went.
so, here goes:
the first 24 miles were awesome...flat, fast, the adrenaline coursing.
the next 28 miles stunk.
the 20 miles following that were pretty darn great...gotta love a tailwind.
the next 3 were not as much fun.
then came about 15 mellow miles.
during the next mile I encountered a runaway skateboard and almost crashed: adrenaline rushed for about 5 minutes.
and the last 2.5 miles were spent wishing I was done, knowing that it was just around the corner, wanting it over.

the 28 stinky miles were on the western side of the great salt lake, into the wind, rolling then gently climbing one of those false flats that even in the dark depresses you.  the scenery is bleak (even in the dark), the vegetation sparse, not a house or building in sight for mile after mile after mile.
you know it will end--eventually--but you can't imagine ever really getting there.
each revolution of the wheel brings you closer only to another rise in the road, another expanse of barren  sand, another dead grouse by the side of the pathway.
at the end of this long, lonely, depressing, difficult ride lies a teeny, tiny town with a shuttered convenience store and a dusty post office .  .  .
population 256.
another bereft burg at the end of a windblown road.

I finished the night ride at 4 am, having survived the adventure quite well.
it's the recovery that bites.

and the path to elberta.

if I ever am given the opportunity to name a town, I'm pretty darn sure I won't pick a name that begins with the letter e.

off to take a nap,

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

sleep envy

all I have to say today is this:
in 5.5 hours I'll be getting on my bike and starting a 100-mile ride around utah lake.

that would be a 10 pm start.

I have nothing more to say about that today, but I'm sure I'll have a great deal to say about it the next time I post.
enjoy your sleep tonight .  .  . I'll be envying you.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

peat and repeat

I have a friend who ran in a 100-mile trail race, which is just a repulsive thought to me.
what made it sound even worse was the route:  it was a 20-mile loop, done 5 times.
I am not one who loves repeating laps.
I shudder at the thought, actually, fearing the probable boredom.
once I rode emigration canyon to the top twice in a row because I was with people who were on call and thus couldn't be more than twenty minutes away from the valley just in case .  .  .  it wasn't awful, but I experienced a vague sense of dis-ease the second time up:  repeating the same course just felt wrong.
that was the only time I'd done cycling laps, until yesterday.

but yesterday was different.
yesterday was the last day of the season to ride the upper half of millcreek canyon without cars.

millcreek canyon is gated halfway up from november 1 to june 30, allowing only hikers, cyclists, skiers, and snowshoers past the locked gate during those 8 months.  the road above the gate is narrow and winding, intensely steep in sections, and lined with thick, green vegetation.  it's cool, water streams alongside the road, and trees and sheer hillsides shade the bending, seemingly meandering asphalt.
in it's 8.5 miles one gains almost 2700 feet of elevation, with grades that range from zero percent (for a few glorious moments) to 13-15 percent (for a few heartbreaking stretches), depending upon whose toy is computing the grade.  a glorious descent is the reward for reaching the top.

so yesterday morning I rode it twice:  once by myself, early, in the cool of the morning, then a couple hours later with friends.
need I say that I rode a bit more quickly the first time?  an hour seven minutes the first time; an hour sixteen minutes two hours later.
but it was strikingly beautiful both times, and I made the most of the last day behind the locked gate.

sometimes it's okay to do laps, and repeat yourself.