Poodles, rain, and bad decisions

I shouldn’t have been surprised when I arrived at Sibley that the parking lot was empty. It was pouring this morning. The wonder poodle refused to leave the car, using all 40 pounds of his poodle might to brace himself against my tugs.  His little furry brain was not going into that rain; it was wet out there.  I spent a couple of minutes explaining to him that he would have fun romping in the rain, but his English is not very good and I did not seem to convince him.  Eventually, he relented, got out of the car and walked alongside me, tail down occasionally looking at me as though he was wondering what he had done to deserve this punishment.

I had decided to take the dog for a hike in Sibley based on the following reasons:

  • It was Monday morning and I always take the dog for a hike on Monday morning.
  • I was awake and ready to go.
  • It was past sunrise.  (Due to the rain and cloud cover, the sky was darkish, but it was past daybreak.)

I knew it was raining, but I figured that the dog would have a good time anyway.  I did not check the radar.  I had already made the decision based on reasons listed above.  I did not need to bring the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration into the discussion.  As I drove to the park, I realized that I had, yet again, made a bad decision.  It was pouring, not raining slightly, but pouring.  My windshield wipers were going at full speed.

I had brought a rain jacket, not my good one, not one that worked well.  I brought the other one, the one that leaves my arms and neck wet and cold.   I wouldn’t want to wear out the good one by using it to stay dry.  I rarely wear my good rain jacket.  It has become my litmus test for riding my bike in the rain.  If it is raining hard enough or going to rain long enough that I think that I need my $250 rain jacket, I stay at home.  Best 250 dollars that I have ever spent.  I should have also brought my rain pants today. I also bought my rain pants for biking.  I have never worn them on a bike.  See discussion about $250 rain jacket above.  I have, however, decided that rain pants are great on dog hikes done in the pouring rain.

The rain stopped as I returned to the parking lot after the hike.  As I drove home, I could see that the clouds had broken and the sun was beaming down on Oakland.  I like that view.  I was still in the clouds, but I could see the city below, shining in the sun.  Everything looked clean and bright.  I was in full sunshine by the time I got home and, as I type this from inside my apartment, the sun shines brightly through my window.  If I had simply delayed my hike by an hour, the dog and I would have enjoyed a happier and drier walk and the dog might have seen some other fellow furry dog friends.

Sunny view from my desk chair

I had a nice hike today, despite the rain.  The rain gives an eerie quietness to the place.  The rain itself is loud, but it drowns out all other noises and it seems quiet.  I liked the muted colors of the hills caused by the dimmed lighting with the sun blocked by the clouds.  The dog eventually did cheer up and ran around merrily, randomly digging frantically at imaginary critters.

This hiking incident reminds me of a discussion that Michael, Alexis, and I had this past weekend.  Michael, upon looking back at the major decision points in his life, has decided that he made the wrong decisions at each of those points.  I pointed out that he seemed to have been happy for much of his married life, until the divorce, and perhaps that decision was not a mistake.  He conceded that that decision was probably the right decision, but he was not quite happy with anything else.  Alexis thought that she had made the correct decision at each of those points in her life.

I bike.  I bike a lot.  It is what I do.  I spend a huge amount of time and money doing it.  Cycling has turned out to be my main focus of my life.  How did that happen?  It is a tad dangerous, it takes up much of my time, and it does not pay at all well.  Why did I decide to spend my life doing this activity?  I do not really know.  I feel like it is just what happened, which is of course a ridiculous response.  I did not just buy all those bikes and spend all my free time on a bike by accident.  It did not just happen.  Why do I do it and why did I start?  Starting biking could be considered a major decision, being the activity that has most transformed my life, but I certainly never sat down and made that decision.  I started cycling, because we moved further away from Jason’s work.  He was no longer able to walk to work, so he started cycling.  He saw the Oakland Yellow Jackets one day and decided to try riding with them.  I was somewhat jealous of the women with whom he was riding and decided that I would start riding, too, and then I was hooked.  Would I be happier doing something else?  I am not sure.  I like biking a lot.  Could I be more productive and a better contributor to society doing something else?  Most certainly.

(Jill Horner had an interesting blog post recently discussing why people chose the sports they chose.  She encouraged people to consider why they did what they did and to also consider other activities.)

Many of my decisions are made in the cycling manner.  I was not really aware that I was making a decision.  I just went along.  Many of my decisions are also made in the hiking manner.  I decided what I wanted to do and ignored the obvious drawbacks and the obviously better choices.  I do what I want, either ignoring the better options or rationalizing that what I am doing is actually a good idea.

I did not add anything to the discussion with Michael and Alexis regarding important decisions, but I think as Michael does.  Most of my important decisions, if not outright mistakes, were not the correct or best decisions.  If I were to do it all over again, I would do everything differently, except for the getting married.  I would still marry Jason.

tired and dirty dog resting on Jason’s side of the bed. Good dog.

Furnace Creek 508: Stage 4, the hardest stage

Julie’s version of her ride as stoker in this stage is found on Nancy Yu’s blog.

Julie and Steve rode the hardest set of stages.  On paper, Nancy and Tim’s stage 3 ride would seem to be the hardest, since it is the longest and has the most climbing.  The hardest stage, however, is not the century that contains the 2-hour climb and that ends in Furnace creek at 0125; the hardest stage is the 73 mile leg that contains the three hour climb and that starts at 0125 and ends at 0733.

Stage 4. Stolen from the AdeventureCORP site. By Doug Dog Sloan

Humans are not made to drive or ride between 3 am and 6 am.  They are the witching hours.   We did pass a few riders who stopped to sleep in their support vehicles.  508 miles is a long time to go without sleep and a number of the solo riders do bed down along this stage during the witching hours.

Their stage started out very strong as they rode along the valley floor into a slight headwind, picking off half-bikes.  They would see a bike ahead of them and, I swear, double their speed, sprinting past their competition and almost dropping the van.  Julie said that Steve was like a dog, always wanting to be out front.

At Jubilee Pass and Salisbury Pass our joy was terminated. We spent three hours slowly driving behind the tandem and trying not to fall asleep.  Jason drank 3 of those Starbucks coffee caffeine bombs as he slowly drove the van in complete darkness following the climbing tandem, but finally succumbed and had to pull over.  Tim took over the driving and I continued as shot-gun.  Tim had gotten a small amount of sleep in the back while Jason drove, but he hadn’t really slept much.  I thought that someone should be awake other than the driver and tried valiantly to stay awke, but completely failed.  I could not stop myself from nodding off over and over again.  I drank a coke and felt quite buzzed from the coke, but the buzziness did not prevent me from nodding off.  Jason, sensing that the whole car was being overwhelmed by a fog of drowsiness, also tried not to sleep in the back seat.  Tim did a good job.  He stayed pretty far back from the tandem, so that if he did fall asleep or zone out, he would not actually hit our riders.  He never nodded or even really appeared to be sleepy and his driving was steady, but he did seem a little zoned out.  We were going 4 mph, so we would not get very far or get there very quickly if he actually fell asleep, but still, I was a little nervous.  -but not nervous enough to actually prevent me from continuing to nod off.  I spent 3 hours going 4-5 mph following a tandem in the dark feeling buzzed, tired, sleepy, and nervous all at once.

I remarked to the four of us in the van that the only people actually awake were the two on the tandem.

That supposition turned out to be an error.  Julie spent much of that climb trying to keep Steve awake.  Steve said he just wanted to get off the bike and sleep for a little bit.  Julie talked to him, badgered him, and sang to him in order to keep him awake.  Steve had not gotten much sleep on Friday night before the race and really did not need another sleepless night, especially one that involved climbing Jubilee and Salisbury passes by bike.  His stomach was not giving him any pleasure either, so all in all Steve was a really good sport.

I had been wrong, of the six of us, Julie, the stoker, was the only person awake that night and her handlebars do not actually control anything.

Dawn broke and everyone woke up.  Julie called us up to the tandem to yell at us that this hill needed to end already.  Their descent was not much of a descent and they ended up pedaling into the next time station.

Steve and Julie did a fabulous job riding a psychologically difficult stage into daybreak.

Picture of Steve and Julie near the top of Salisbury after dawn. This picture is very over-exposed to be able to see them.

Stage 4: Furance Creek to Shoshone. Stolen from the AdventureCORP site. Map made by Doug Dog Sloan.

Furnace Creek 508 ride report: Stage 3, the queen stage

Nancy Yu’s blog has a first person ride report for this stage.

Stage 3, with the Trona bump and Towne’s pass, is the actual queen stage, topping out with an elevation of 5000 feet on Townes Pass.  Nancy and Tim rode this stage and were outrageously strong on Townes pass, a 3800 feet climb with some stiff bits.  Per the 508 webpage this 100 mile stage has 7538 feet of climbing and Nancy and Tim cranked out this century in 6 hrs and 15 minutes.

Since this stage was ridden in complete darkness, we were required by 508 rules to do a direct follow of our riders with the follow car.  During the day, we are allowed to provide leap frog support with the car.  New national regulations have now made direct-follow support cars for bicycles illegal in national parks without a special permit, a permit which involves a 3 month study/review period.  The law is new and AdventureCORPS was not given enough time to request a special permit and make a study regarding impact of the follow cars, so we were grandfathered in for this year and this year only.  (My version of this story lacks any firsthand knowledge, is likely to contain some errors, and is definitely not the entire story.)  However, the Death Valley National Park was concerned about the dangers of having slow-moving follow cars going up Townes Pass and expressed their concern to Kostman.  As a result, this year, the follow cars were given permission to leap frog their riders on the climb up Townes in order to find a spot to pull over and allow other traffic to more easily pass. I am not sure why the park was more concerned this year than on previous years, but they were.  We directly followed Tim and Nancy the entire climb, except for one quick stop near the top.  The only cars were saw on the climb were other follow cars and the one ranger who was monitoring the event.

Last year a rider crashed on the descent down Townes and needed to be transported out by ambulance.  In the end she was ok, but the ambulance had to come from far away and involved a lot of coordination.  As part of this year’s permit, Kostman was required to hire an ambulance and have it stationed in Stovepipe Wells, near the base of Townes.  This ambulance would be able to help any rider on Townes pass or in Death Valley.  I am not sure how Kostman feels about the extra ambulance, but I was glad of its presence.  Death Valley always feels so isolated.

The tandem 4x teams are the only teams allowed 2 vehicles, since we are basically a traveling circus with 8 riders and 4 silly long bikes.  Jason and I were in the extra vehicle for the start of this stage.  We jumped ahead to before the climb up Townes and waited for the crew.  I liked this part of the race.  The start of Townes pass was in the distance and we could see a string of red lights, all other 508 people slowly climbing the pass in complete darkness. I tried to get pictures of the string of lights in the distance going up Townes, but the pictures, taken with my pocket camera did not capture the situation’s coolness.    We were able to stand around and discuss stars, the milky way, and the Pleiades, and why are rods only on the side of the retina?

We did a vehicle swap and Jason and I ended up in Willy’s van, the follow vehicle, with Willy driving.  Driving behind Nancy and Tim was great; they just went up Townes like it was nothing.  They conquered that hill and just being there to see them and witness their ride was a treat.

Nancy and Tim as they would have looked on Townes Pass, had they done it during the day and had the pass been flatter

The run into Furnace Creek from the Scottie’s Castle turn-off has always seemed disappointingly long.  It should be flat and easy, but instead I feel like that particular leg is interminable.  I have done it a few times as part of the AdventureCORPS Death Valley events.  However, it doesn’t seem long at all when done in an air-conditioned car, even when done at bike speed (or at least at Tim and Nancy bike speed).

We got to Furnace Creek.  Tim and Nancy dismounted, Julie and Steve mounted, Tim forgot to strap down the back tandem wheel onto the truck, Tim lost his helmet, and we were OFF to the next stage.

Stage 3, Trona to Furnace Creek. Stolen from the AdventureCORPS site. Map by Doug Dog Sloan.

Furnace Creek 508 ride report: Before the ride



Who wouldn’t want to do a race where you get to pick a totem that’s then yours for life?  I think that Chris Kostman is simply a brilliant man.

The Furnace Creek 508 is a five hundred and eight mile bicycle race across the desert, through Death Valley.  The race is very popular.  (Popular, not in a Levi Leipheimer-Gran Fondo sort of way, but in a 508 mile race across the desert sort of way.)  It is also quite expensive, not just because of the race fees, but because of gas, lodging etc in such a remote location.  I am not complaining about the costs, just pointing out the costs of a race that has been going on for over twenty years, is very popular (this year’s race had 234 racers and a sundry crew) and involves riding five hundred and eight miles across the desert.


Who cares how expensive it is?  You get a freaking totem. Who cares if it involves driving a car at cycling speed for five hundred and eight miles across the desert?  Totems are cool.

The other brilliant part of the 508 is that you can do it as a relay.  Signing up for a five hundred and eight mile race across the desert as a soloist is something that only really strong and fast people do.  Regular cyclists don’t do things like that.  However, most cyclists can do 1/4 of five hundred and eight miles.  The relays are a hook.  A bit of a taste and then people want to try for the whole shebang.

Not only do you get your own totem that you can keep for life, you can also be inducted into the 508 hall of fame after 5 events.  Willy just completed his 4th 508: once as a soloist, once as a two man relay, once as a two tandem relay, and now once as a 4 tandem relay.  He is definitely going to do one more event just to get into the Hall of Fame.  In order to be inducted into the California Triple Crown (CTC) Hall of Fame, one needs to complete 50 doubles.  50.  At my rate of double riding, for me to get into the CTC, I am going to need to find me some strapping young man to pull me around on a tandem as I pedal into my dotage.  5 events is awfully tempting and who on earth would want to do all 5 events as a soloist?  (There is an answer for this question.  You can look it up.)  You would want to do some of the events as a relay and then you would be looking for fresh blood and hooking a whole new set of cyclist into the 508 web.

Which is how Jason and I got involved in the 508.

I love riding in the desert.  Jason and I have done the Death Valley century/double a few times and I love riding there.  I ride along and can see forever.  The roads warp and warble and disappear into points on the horizon.  The land is vast and open.  Geology is on display like a textbook.  Mountain ranges miles and miles away seem close enough to touch.  It feels surreal and other-worldly.   I sign up for the Chris Kostman’s Death Valley double every few years, after the terribleness of the 9 hour drive has been forgotten, but the memory of the desert’s beauty still lingers.

I love these views of the road disappearing into the horizon.

When Willy mentioned the tandem relay, it sounded like a great idea.  We would be involved in this cool race in the desert with a lot of people we know.  It would be pretty and it would not be that hard, since 508 divided by 4 is not that much.  Not until much closer to the race did I actually think out the situation.  While the cycling would be fun, most of the ride would be done in a car, traveling at bike speed across the desert and while I like cycling in the desert, I cannot say, in all honesty, that I like driving across the desert.  And where would I get to pee?

When I told MarkN about my plans to do the 508 as a relay, his reply was:

I have to admit the 508 sounds awful but that is just me. Not my cup of tea at all. I have heard that some people like that sort of thing though.  … I think it would be fun to get 4 tandem teams together in Death Valley and ride 60 to 80 miles in the daytime together. Then go to the hotel for drinks and dinner. Maybe a hot tub soak. Repeat the next day. I’m just saying.

Mark is awfully fond of hot tubs, but I still think that he might be onto something.

The driving turned out to be fine.  Driving wasn’t as nice as riding, but it was sort of fun to drive along slowly across the desert and stare at the horizon.


Willy wrote to us in March and told us to get hotel reservations at the start and finish sites.  He warned that the rooms would be hard to come by as the event approached.   Jason and I got a room at the start host hotel, but were unable to get a room at the finish host hotel and so got a room at the Motel 6, which Willy had mentioned in his email.  Nancy was really on the ball and managed to snag a room at the finish hotel.

On August 30th, having completely forgotten about his March email, Willy wrote to us again and suggested that we should all get rooms.  He hadn’t looked into getting rooms yet, and was hoping that rooms were still available.  Nancy and Jason replied that we had already reserved rooms. Willy, Steve and Tim were unable to get rooms at the start hotel, but they decided to get rooms at the Motel 6 for the finish since Jason and I were booked there (on Willy’s suggestion).

That motel 6 was pretty much a dump.  When we got to the motel, Willy told us that he would never have stayed there, except that we had already gotten rooms there and he decided to be a team player and book his room there, too.  We had only stayed there on his suggestion, of course, but that was from an email he had long forgotten.  The Motel 6 wasn’t really that bad.  It didn’t have bed bugs, roaches or obvious scurrying rodentia and it was really, really cheap.  I haven’t stayed in a room this cheap in over 15 years.  Our room was dinky and smelled faintly of urine and cigarette smoke, but only faintly.  All in all the room was great; it was cheap, it had no bed bugs or roaches and you acclimated to the smell in a matter of minutes.

Nancy showed up at the finish hotel, to discover that her reservation was for a different day. After a few calls, Deb was able to find a room in town for them.  Their room, apparently, did not smell of smoke and urine, but it was more expensive.

The start host hotel, the Hyatt Regency in Valencia, was fantastic.  The rooms were reasonably priced and very, very nice.


  • Me and Jason
  • Tim and Nancy
  • Steve and Julie
  • Deb and Willy

Jason, Me, Julie, Steve, Deb, Willy, Nancy, Tim. Photo by Ron Jones from the AdventureCORPS site

We rode under the totem Gray Goose, which is a great totem, since it is a combination of Julie’s and Steve’s last names and they are interested in doing the ride as a solo tandem team or a 2-man relay.

Floyd Landis had been signed up as part of a 2-man team and people were somewhat relieved that he was not able to come, so that the attention would be back on us regular folks.

Deb and Willy have ridden the tandem together quite a bit and they did last year’s 508 as a 2 tandem relay with Steve and Julie.  They were our honored veterans.  Jason, Tim, Nancy and I were the clueless rookies.  Jason and I have ridden quite a bit together, though we don’t ride as much as we used to do.  Nancy has ridden tandems on numerous occasions with various captains, though she, herself, does not own a tandem.  Tim was the odd duck.  The two stages of the 508 were his 4th and 5th rides on a tandem.  He signed up for this event, having never ridden a tandem at all.  He signed up to this event with the understanding that he would buy a tandem in order to do it.  I know couples who have been married for years, but are unwilling to get a tandem, so worried that they might not like it and he bought one, because he was riding with Willy on a brevet one lovely day and Willy told him about the tandem relay idea and Tim thought it sounded fun.  He agreed on the spot to sign up, buy a tandem and ride with Nancy.  Who does that?

I really liked Tim.

Nancy’s willingness to ride a tandem with someone she did not really know is remarkable, too.  All in all, the team was great, except for me, who has a slight tendency for baseline crankiness (especially when hungry and I missed a couple of meals on this weekend due to ride timing).  No one got upset or seemed stressed out and everything went smoothly.

Steve made a rack so he could carry three tandems on his truck.  Willy has a van decked out from previous 508 events for supporting this type of event.  Willy was on one of the support teams that crewed for Joan Deitchman this year in RAAM.  Willy is of the opinion that you can only plan so much for these events.  His main plan is to be flexible, because you never really know what is going to happen.

Willy drove Tim, Deb, and Nancy down to Valencia, but between the four of them, they failed to adequately clamp down the skewer on Tim’s brand-new tandem and the tandem fell over on the roof as they drove down Interstate 5.  Fortunately, it did not fall off the roof or into some other unsuspecting driver’s window.  They stopped, put the tandem back into place, and everything was fine.

Pre Race

Jason and I arrived at the start hotel on Thursday evening, got nice and settled and then went for a nice ride on Friday morning.  We wanted to get there early, so we would be all settled and comfortable before registration on Friday, which started at 11 am and ended at 4 pm.  Willy, Nancy, Deb and Tim arrived in time to finish registration 3 minutes before 4.

Steve designed and made a rack for his pick-up truck to carry the three extra tandems. Steve and Tim on the right

Julie and Steve to the left and me, sitting on Steve and Julie’s truck dressed as a yellowjacket

Nancy and Willy

Jason and I did get a very nice ride in on Friday morning and I was very happy that we had arrived early.  Valencia was a bit odd, but we were able to ride the first bit of stage one, going through San Francisquito Canyon, which was very pretty and interesting.

San Francisquito canyon ride before the ride

See Nancy Yu’s blog for the full Gray Goose Tandem 4x race report.

Click here for Nancy Yu’s video of the weekend.

2012 Knoxville Double ride report part one: But I thought you said the ride went well?

I really would like to write a ride report for the Knoxville Double and now would be the time to do it, but I don’t want to.  I feel tired and worn out and maybe I should go out and buy me a coke?  Are you kidding?  It is about 100 degrees outside and I am never leaving my shaded apartment again.

Dorothy Parker is supposed to have said, “I hate writing. I love having written.”

I feel the opposite way about doing doubles.  I like doing the doubles, but I hate having done them.

The doubles start early in the morning, so you start the double with a sleep deficit.  I got up at 0230 to start Saturday’s double.  I end the doubles late and then do not sleep well the next night, so I continue the deficit.  -And then let us not forget the 200 mile ride that is done between the two nights without enough sleep.  Maybe I am just tired.  Maybe I just need another nap.  I don’t know.  How long I am supposed to feel sort of lousy?  My back hurts.  I’ll write my report later.  I wish someone would come over and do my laundry.


Will you still love me when I am old and grey?

A friend posted this picture on her facebook page.  She strongly believes in eating meat in the same way vegetarians strongly believe in abstaining and she stated that this Pinterest post resonated with her and I could see how it might, considering her strong meat leanings.

However, this poster was also the same women who looked down at my eating habits, saying that she had gotten to the point in her life where she no longer saw the point of eating food that lacked nutritional value, so I also found her posting of this picture annoying.  I eat plenty of food simply for the joy of consuming it and can hardly be considered a consistently healthful eater.  (I don’t think I eat as poorly as my friends suppose, though.)

This post did, however, also resonate with me, but for a different reason; I found it offensive.  I had never heard of Gillian McKeith and was only aware of Nigella Lawson, because of a friend’s husband, who happened to find her hot, and I have a vague, but uninformed opinion, that I might actually prefer the diet supposedly touted by Nigella Lawson.  Even if we ignore the fact that one picture is clearly posed and fuzzy and the other is candid, Nigella Lawson can be said to be prettier and to look younger than Gillian McKeith.  Nigella also looks younger than me and I am 6 years younger than she.  Suppose Nigella Lawson and I were to meet and suppose in this odd situation we were to have some sort of disagreement, would the argument be solved by the juxtapostioning of our pictures?  I suppose this disagreement would be actually solved by the fact that she is a successful and wealthy celebrity, and thus, far more important than me.  That she is actually prettier would be just gravy.  Any opinion she would have would clearly outweigh mine and she would be deemed correct.

I suppose I should only pick arguments with people less pretty than me and then I can just point that fact out and win the argument.  If I were pretty enough, could I change the rules of the universe?  Could I change reality with a bat of my eye?

Cyclist use a similar fact-determining technique frequently.  Disagreements regarding riding, equipment, and clothing are routinely resolved by figuring out who is faster.  The faster rider is correct.  Case closed.  However, sometimes these arguments are actually resolved by the posting of extremely long, illogical, inaccurate, and supposedly technical arguments, with which no one can be bothered to argue, since life is too short.  I have no idea which is the better method, since both seem equally random.  Truth is hard to determine.  Determining it by the appearance of the person making the argument might be as accurate as other methods.

Female cyclists have long discussions about cycling clothes and how they are not designed properly for them.  Women seem to want jerseys that cut in at the waist and out at the hips.  Women’s jerseys also frequently have small capped sleeves and, in general, show more skin.  Women’s shorts, for instance, are quite a bit shorter.  I do not like the cycling clothes designed for women, so I usually buy men’s cycling clothes.  I am on a bike ride, do I really need to try to emphasize my waist to hip ratio to somehow convey some sort of fertility?  I am almost 45, for goodness sake.  Can’t I stop this already?  I want to go on a bike ride.   Do I really need to dress in clothes to make me sexually appealing to men?   Why should I bother?  I am on a bike ride, aren’t I off-duty?

One day, as I walked by the loading dock of Whole Foods, the owner of a small pick-up truck  covered with pleasant, feel-good, lefty bumper stickers offered me some food.  He was loading food donated by Whole Foods onto his truck and took a quick look at my clothes and kindly made his offer.  I smiled and said no thanks.  I know why he offered me the food.  My clothing is old, stretched out, ripped and full of holes.  My clothing selection each morning is based on 3 factors:  1) how cold I am, 2)  what am I already wearing, and 3) what is next to my bed when I got up.  One of my goals in life is never to go clothing shopping again.  I wish to coast the rest of my life on the clothes I have already accumulated.  I see no good reason why these clothes should not do.  They can prevent me from being naked admirably well and isn’t that what clothes are supposed to do?

However, the guy I sometimes go on dog walks with once told me I looked like a schizophrenic.  He then listed all the odd things I was wearing:  15 year old purple knit skirt, 8 year old light blue castelli long sleeve winter cycling shirt, stripped wool knee socks, black clogs, and a cute cycling cap covered with little white daisies. My hair was in Pipi Long-stocking braids.  My friend is a mental health care worker.

My husband thinks I should make more of an effort and try to look nicer and I suppose I should.  I dress up when we go out to dinner, which we do regularly, and I try not to look too horrible at work.  Perhaps the only important thing about you is the way you look.  Perhaps that is the only reality that really counts.

I did the Alex’s all-club Second Saturday Ride (ASSR) this past weekend.  Once a month, the Grizzly Peak Cyclists do an all club ride that splits up after about 10 miles into different paces.  It is a nice ride.  The route is pretty and the company nice.  I love cycling.  I love the joy of movement.  I like the hard effort and its accompanying thrill.   I spent the evening in the company of friends, eating good food and talking for hours.  It was a day well spent.  I am luckier than I deserve.  Perhaps that is the only reality that counts.

OYJ Petaluma ride report: Cyclist versus car

Since the hospital ER bays are separated only by curtains, we could clearly hear the ER doctor telling the man’s family that they had been doing compressions on the man for 25 minutes and had given him meds.  The doctor explained that they were running out of things that they could do and that it didn’t look good.

Jason and I were doing great, however.  I had had my xrays and was feeling much better.  We were pretty sure that the xrays would be clear and we were really just waiting to be released by the doctor.  Despite the dire situation occurring nearby, the doctor soon came and released me.  He warned me that my right shoulder would probably take longer to heal than I expected and that I might need some physical therapy.  I didn’t really believe him.  My shoulder hurt a little, but it did not seem that bad.  When we left, they were giving the cardiac arrest patient his third dose of epi as his family watched on.

Garmin trace showing ambulance trip

Of course, I hadn’t turned off my Garmin when I crashed.  I didn’t even know what had happened to my bike, but they had put it into the ambulance with me and the Garmin dutifully recorded the trip to the Petaluma Valley Hospital.

The OYJ (Oakland Yellowjackets) Petaluma ride is a great ride.  It goes over Joy Road and climbs the east side of the Coleman Valley Road wall.  The route then goes up the coast to Jenner, before returning along River Road and Bohemian Highway.  The official route has a bunch of climbing at the end, but we decided to cut out the final climbing and take the flatter way home.  Often on this ride, people cut out the jaunt up to Jenner and eat in Monte Rio instead.  I love Jenner and I wanted to go to the mouth of the Russian river to look at the seals.

To Jenner via Joy and Coleman

Don Mitchell and Jim Swarzman died in separate incidents after having been hit by cars.  Their deaths were awful.  Neither death should have happened at all.  There was absolutely no excuse for either incident.  I could go on and on, but the incidents were too upsetting.

Jack Holmgren, tired of having his friends killed, has embarked on a safety and high visibility crusade.  As part of this crusade, he gives lectures on how to be visible while you are cycling.  He also organized a mass buying of a high visibility neon-orange, day-glow vest with reflective tape on it.  In addition to the reflective tape already on the vest, Jack sewed large reflective tape on to the bottom of each vest.  When you lean down, the very reflective orange tape will still be visible.  “Moonbeams,” he called them.  People donated money in Don’s and Jim’s memories to Jack for him to buy the reflective tape.   I had bought one of these highly reflective vests with the Jack Moonbeam treatment and had been wearing the vest on my commutes.  Saturday’s ride was the first time I wore it on a regular ride.  Jack says that when cyclists are hit by cars, the car drivers say “I didn’t see him (or her).”  He argues that we owe it to Don Mitchell’s and Jim Swarzman’s memories to be as visible as possible.

Mavic vest without the special Jack Moonbeam treatment.

As I lied on the ground with a woman (an off duty nurse) holding my head to prevent me from moving, I could hear the woman who had cut me off, saying over and over that she hadn’t seen me.  At the time, I was happy that she was there.  I was happy that she had stopped and had not left the scene.  I was happy that she was upset that I was hurt.  Alexis told me later that she had been angry at the woman for going on and on about not seeing me as I lay there in my bright orange vest.

Moreover, I was happy that I was not seriously injured.  When the car had cut me off, I had not been able to see a way out.  I thought that this was it- this was going to be my bad accident and it was going to hurt a lot.   However, I was able to slow down the bike a lot more than I thought I would be able to and while my right arm hurt some, I knew that I was going to be ok.

The incident was not only witnessed by my husband and my friends, it was witnessed by an off duty deputy.  There were two off duty nurses at the scene.  I do not know how they could have gotten to me so fast.  As far as I can discern, I collided with the car and instantly this woman was there holding my head and telling me not to move.  The EMTs arrived immediately.  The policeman (David Gilman) who came and talked to me in the ER was very nice and helpful.  The woman who hit me did not leave.  She was loud and upset and she called 911.  The nurses at the ER were nice and the doctor was unhurried, nice and informative.  The XRay tech was great, very friendly and he made me very relaxed. Everyone at the Petaluma Valley Hospital was great.  Next time I crash, I want to do it in Petaluma.  As Jason drove home, he remarked about how great everyone was and that we should move there.

On Saturday evening, I was on a bit of a high.   I was so relieved that I had not been worse hurt.  I have moved past that stage and am currently a little annoyed that I cannot lift my right arm.  It does not hurt much, but the arm is weak and it lacks mobility.

I am also very upset that the vest made with “Moonbeam” reflective tape bought with donations made in Jim’s and Don’s memories still did not prevent me from getting in this type of incident.  I would not have been as upset if I had been wearing another high-vis item, but the wearing of this particular vest for the first time on a ride and still getting hit in this manner makes me unreasonably upset.

I stole this picture from Willy’s facebook site. It shows Willy (wearing the hat) and Don Mitchell.

Picture stolen from Chris Kostman of AdventureCorp

I am glad we went to Jenner.  I love Jenner.  The cafe is great.  Jason and I split a chicken sandwich, but not any ordinary chicken sandwich.  It was a chicken sandwich on focaccia bread with red pepper compote.  It was sooo yummy.  We  also split a hot chocolate to ward against the lingering fog and we sat outside watching the wildlife on the Russian river through a glass screen that protected us from the wind.  We listened to live music; a reggae singer was preforming.  It was one of those perfect moments that occur regularly on bike rides.  All the senses are delighted, you are surrounded by friends, and you sit there and think about how lucky you are.

After lunch, we rode up to see the mouth of the Russian river.  We saw a bunch of seals and two otters and that was nice, too.

Day three! Touring in Oregon: Crater Lake

Crater Lake

On day three the prescribed course was from Fort Klamath to Mosquito Lake  (better known as Diamond Lake) via a trip around Crater Lake.  To get EFI credit (every fabulous mile), one also needed to do an out and back to the pinnacles.  Michael did not want to go completely around the lake or do the out and back to the pinnacles.  Instead we went part way around the lake and then retraced our steps, in order to stay next to the lake the entire time.  Michael’s goal was to be the lantern rouge and he did not care about EFI credit.

Route around lake without out and bak to pinnacles. We did not go completely around lake.

Altitude! and steep at times!  Oregon roads are gently sloped and beautifully maintained.  The gentle slopes are lovely on a tour, since you can always just go slower if you are tired.  However, I am better at shorter, steeper climbs and I liked having something to sink my teeth into on this day.

I never remember this stuff when I get home, so I took a picture. However, “crater formed by volcanic explosion” really is not that hard to remember.

Wizard Island

Mosquitos preyed on us as we rode and every time we stopped.  I got 9 bites on my ass.  The little suckers bit me through my shorts.  I got bitten as I climbed.  They saw me and thought “she’s not used to the altitude- let’s go get her,” and they chased me down and sucked me dry.

Crater Lake, blue rim, and me

I love my blue rimmed front wheel with purple nipples.  The purple nipples create a lovely purple haze that delights me and cheers me up on gloomy days.

Mary, Diane, Michael, me, Andrea. Picture by Steve Rogers.  I am not really that short. 

Diane could make this very loud seal barking noise.  She first demonstrated it on this ride.  At first, the noise was really quite annoying, but after a couple of weeks, it grew on me and I found it amusing and somewhat endearing.

“Take a picture of me by this snow bank!”

I was so excited to see snow.  I scoured the landscape, looking for a snow bank in order to have my picture taken in front of it.  Poor Andrea took this picture.  She hadn’t even had a moment to catch her breath after climbing a somewhat longer than expected and steep hill (at altitude), when I accosted her, shouting orders at her to take my picture.  I have been living in California so long, that I now find snow exciting.  I am glad it does not snow where I live.  I thought of my friend Charleston as this picture was taken and thought about how much he hates the cold.  I was happier than I look.

View looking away from the lake. I should really know what these mountains are, but I don’t.

Imagine a lot of loud seal barking noises being made as this picture is taken.

Crater Lake, clouds, and pollen

I grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia and my fifth grade teacher went on a trip to Crater Lake.  She treated us to a lecture and a slide show of her trip.  As a kid, the west coast seemed a world away and an impossible place to ever go, but I wanted to actually see the lake and I never thought I would.  I was very happy to have had the opportunity to see it.

Crater Lake and peaks

View from our camp site at Mosquito Lake (Diamond Lake)

The campsite was not as mosquito ridden as I thought it would be.

2010 Census: Please, please understand me and make me count

I wrote this article in March of 2010.  Jean, my neighbor, has since died.  

During the 1990 census, my aunt was asked to fill out the long census form. I am not sure what the long form asks now, but in 1990 it asked a lot of questions about type of housing: building types, size of building, indoor plumbing, heat, electricity, water, etc. The longer form also asked more detailed questions about the inhabitants. It queried regarding occupations, health, disabilities, education, methods of transport to and from work (biking, walking, carpooling, mass transit?), etc. I want to fill out one the long forms. I want to be more than a number, sex, race, and age.

I want to be described and understood. However, even with the long form, my apartment is not exactly exciting. It is typical- nothing unusual or interesting. A number would probably describe it adequately. (I would, however complain about my lack of central heating.) I might simply have to lie. “I live in a wigwam that is off the grid and has no indoor plumbing. The wigwam, however, does have central air energized by the manure-powered generator out back. I live part of the year here, but for 2 months I live in Sweden, 1 month a year in Morocco, and each July I take a month long retreat on Minnesota, focusing on fly-fishing and meditation. I have several vagrants hanging out in my front hall closet until the rain stops.” I have never been offered the long form.

I am not sure what the long form is asking these days. Do they still ask about carpooling, buses and whether you are on the grid? Are they now asking about internet access and phones? “Do you or anyone living with you have a Twitter account?” I am curious about internet access and how many people actually own computers. I think having a home computer with an internet connection is akin to having a diamond ring- a fun luxury. Being a little on the overindulgent side, I have both. However, so much of life these days seems to be done over the internet and not having home internet access now would be a large hassle (as opposed to a diamond ring, the lack of which leads to no real inconveniences at all). Many businesses and services act as if everyone has easy access to these expensive items and services. I wonder how many people actually do.

When I lived in Baltimore, people lived in run down condemned houses with lead paint, no heat, no water, and no electricity. Houses burned down regularly from the kerosene heaters people used to heat themselves. Now everyone I know has a cell phone. I seem to be further and further away from the squalor these days. I wonder if everyone in Baltimore now has a cell phone.

My husband has one of those handheld computer phones. The cost of running one of those things for 2 months is equal to the cost of a dinner for 2 at Cesar’s. I would much rather have the dinner at Cesar than 2 months of email going to my back pocket. The point is not quite valid, however, since my husband’s email still does go to his back pocket and we go to Cesar’s a lot more than once every 2 months.

I am going to try to find the Irish/English/Portuguese/French/German/etc box on the form. One of the doctors at my work asked me about my ethnic background and I said Irish and Portuguese (my answer for this question varies depending on my mood.) He replied “oh- a fiery combination.” I don’t think anyone has every described me as fiery and my husband was highly amused by the descriptor. The census form, however, offers me only “White,” which is hardly descriptive either. I think I prefer fiery, however inaccurate the adjective may be.

My neighbor came over to my apartment this morning and gave me my census form. I am apparently an 85 year old Chinese woman with very poor hearing and poor understanding of English. She mistakenly filled out my form. (Actually a kind neighbor filled it out for her.) She also filled out her own census form, so we have double the number of old Chinese ladies living on my floor and my husband and I are clearly absent.

She was given the regular short form, too. She keeps catching her kitchen on fire and I think we are going to have to insist her stove be turned off soon. She forgets that she is cooking and then goes off for a nap. She is just getting old and is forgetful. The census questionnaire doesn’t have a box on its form for that either.

Day two! Touring in Oregon: Ashland to Fort Klamath

79 miles. Ashland to Fort Klamath

It has been two weeks since the completion of the Oregon cycling tour and I haven’t unpacked yet.  However this morning, I finally hung my tent up on the balcony  to air out and dry and then decided to write up day 2 of the tour.

It rained overnight, so everything was wet and clean in the morning, except my chain, which was slightly rusty.  Michael was the last person to get his stuff on the truck, so he continued to meet his goals.

I had never actually packed up the tent on my own and it is a task at which I do not excel.  Jason packs everything up tightly and gets all the components onto a teeny tiny sac.  He has figured out the best and most efficient way to pack the tent.  “Follow the fold lines,” he instructs.  I loosely folded the wet tent in the air trying not to get it more dirty and paid no heed to fold lines.  By the end of the 2 week trip, I simply stuffed as much as possible in the sac with no time wasted on any silly folding process.  Every time I packed up the tent, I could feel Jason’s disapproval.  When Jason and I were first together, he, with disapproval in his eyes, would watch me pack my own clothes and then he would unpack everything I did and repack it “correctly.”   After about 20 years, Jason decided that doing everything himself was more work than having me do things not quite right.  In general, I could be said to have won.  Our apartment is a disaster.

We left camp a little after 8 am and arrived at the restaurant with pie at 0930.  The little cafe was full of cyclists and 3-4 of them were already drinking beer.  I thought it  a little early to be either drinking beer or having another breakfast, so I asked Michael to order me a hot chocolate (with whipped cream) and headed off to the bathroom.  This restaurant has amazingly slow service.  I believe that only two people were working there: the cook and a very pretty female teenager who served.  I really didn’t want to miss my opportunity to order the hot chocolate, since who knew when my next ordering opportunity might occur.  Michael, of course, forgot my hot chocolate.    I was annoyed and Michael was annoyed to be causing disappointment.  “You should have known I wouldn’t remember and not have trusted me.”   Michael got over his annoyance of having been forced to disappoint someone, by realizing that the missed hot chocolate order gave him a chance to go and talk to the pretty teenager again.   He gleefully ran off after the pretty girl and placed my order.

We were at this stop for what seemed like hours, but we eventually did hit the road again.  The roads were beautifully smooth.  I don’t think that I have ever ridden on roads that aren’t full of pot holes.  It was a nice experience.  The cars were very polite, since being polite is an easy thing to do in such a sparsely populated area.  Much of the trip was in tall trees.  I appreciate trees in theory, but I am fond of large open vistas and I was really happy when we came out of the trees into open ranch land between the mountain ranges.  A yellow street sign along this stretch warned of “congestion.”  The congestion consisted of 4 farm buildings.

View from the top of the climb out of Ashland

Trees and smooth pavement

congestion ahead

Ashland got a huge quantity of rain after we had left.  Everyone, but Mary, enjoyed a completely dry ride.  Mary got drenched.  It rained in Oakland.  It never rains in July in Oakland.  We however, lucked out and I arrived dry and happy with my unused rain jacket.

I liked the camp grounds.  I was awoken again and again by the howling of wild dogs (coyotes?) and that was kind of cool, too.