Saturday, December 25, 2010

Dreaming and Scheming

As I sit here, full after a huge Christmas dinner, it's 8 degrees out and the ground is covered in 30+ inches of snow. My thoughts turn to possible 2011 trips and adventures, at least one of which will be in what I consider one of, if not the most beautiful places in America -- southern Utah. I have visited a few times in recent years, not even scratching the surface of all that is there.

The trip will most certainly include two wheel travel but may also include the 4 wheel type as well. This trip report provides just a sample of what I have seen there.

Happy holidays all. May 2011 bring you much happiness and joy.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Planet Convergence

At almost every amateur athletic event I have attended, they usually seem to play Eye of The Tiger to inspire the athletes at whatever physical challenge they are attempting. I think they have it all wrong.

Tonight, as I was riding home from dinner with the missus, Handel's Messiah was in play. At the base of the only major climb on the route, the London Philharmonic and Kings College Choir broke into the Hallelujah Chorus and by the time I was at the top, I was singing along. My apologies to the jogger who I am pretty sure I scared half to death. Now that is an inspiring piece of music!!

Minneapolis across the Mississippi

Closing Note: I have received a few emails from folks who tried to link to last night's post, only to find it gone. A person referenced in the post wrote a comment that indicated they had taken it personally. Rather than perpetuate the misunderstanding, and in an effort to minimize the passive-aggressive behavior so rampant here, I deleted it.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Embracing in progress

The last light. Sunset, Lake Harriet.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Finding Winter Bliss

  1. great joy or happiness
  2. spiritual joy; heavenly rapture
  3. any cause of bliss

In Italian, it's:
  1. gioia immensa,
  2. felicità perfetta,
  3. beatitudine
Regardless of how you say it, I have never found the winter version of it. With the exception of a few years as a child living in Equatorial West Africa, I have spent most of my life in places that have very defined climates. Winter has always been present to varying degrees and I have usually tried to do whatever possible to embrace it. I am definitely affected by the lack of daylight that prevails this time of year so the combination of cold and dark often feels quite confining.

I'm not a skier -- I've tried downhill and nordic and both seem to take away from the experience of being outdoors -- one's too fast and the other requires too much concentration. I greatly enjoy the pace of hiking, snowshoeing and of course, winter biking.

So far this winter, we have had two big snow storms. The first dumped a few inches of heavy, wet glop all over everything, and riding in it required a wetsuit to survive. The one that arrived this weekend was 5-8 inches of light, fluffy snow combined with cold temperatures. Riding to and from the shop Saturday was not terribly fun as the cars had turned the snow into oatmeal that defied traction, even with 4 inch wide tires.

After a day spent working in the shop on personal projects, and being told by my far more intelligent wife to quit complaining and embrace winter, I ventured out at dusk to see if I could "trovare la felicita" -- find some of that bliss. Both cities had declared snow emergencies and the parks department had cleared the bike paths -- it was like riding on a white carpet. Even the intersections had been cleared, and the riding was as easy as it is on those late summer nights when you know you could ride forever.

I only rode for an hour or so but it was very, very peaceful. The only sounds were my tires crunching on the dry, packed powder and Willie and Waylon saying something about tuned guitars and firm feeling women being the only things that make life worth living. I stuck to the paths along the Mississippi and encountered only a few people in those ten miles.

Minneapolis from Franklin Street


Ford Bridge

Honestly, I'd still rather be sitting in a remote desert someplace, taking in the immense night sky, but as Garrison Keillor so accurately stated -- "I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it".

So, I will ride as many nights as I can, embracing the reality that is winter here in the Northland, and always hoping to get a little closer to finding felicità perfetta.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Back in Black

People who know me would probably never call me flamboyant, especially when it comes to my attire. Most of the family agrees that I have no fashion sense whatsoever-- and I'm fine with that. When my daughter lived at home, she would comment almost every day -- "you're really wearing that out?". I never knew if she was serious or not.

When it comes to bikes, however, I tend to lean towards some pretty outrageous color schemes. I can't seem to leave well enough alone and generally hate stock colors. When we first opened the shop, we ordered a Pugsley which, at that time, came in purple. I immediately had it changed to this:

That's right. Blaze orange. I loved it and we eventually sold it.

Next came the Big Dummy. If I recall, it came in some green that matched a uniform I once wore. I put white tires on it and turned that into what became affectionately called the "Creamsicle". I still have it and use for a variety of grocery and other hauling chores.

When I had Curt Goodrich build me a frame, there was a color that I really liked and that bike is now called the "Green Hornet".

My Long Haul Trucker was originally tan -- Surly called it "truckachino". I called it ugly and changed it to this.

My Retrotec is officially called the GT40 because it's the color scheme Gulf used for their very successful race teams.

My own Pugsley had been through three winters of riding in snow and brine and despite my best efforts at maintenance, was starting to show the effects. When I pulled it out to set her up for winter, there was a lot of rust in various nooks and crannies -- essentially it was a big salt lick.. So I did the only sensible thing and stripped it down and had it powder coated. I toyed with the idea of something over the top in red but ended up going with flat black. Most of the components were black anyway so it seemed to make sense. It's kind of the Johnny Cash version -- understated but always ready to roll.

I got out for a few miles of urban riding and met the missus for dinner. It's unseasonably warm here for this time of year and winter is right around the corner. But there are still remnants of fall lingering behind.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Home at Last!!

To make a long story short, I got my camera back. I had left it in a rental vehicle in California and through a lengthy series of events, it showed up today. Contained within its bowels are some pictures of my Grand Canyon adventure this summer.

Along the Arizona Trail.

Sunset at Timp Point.

Rainbow Rim Trail.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Happy Birthday

to my Mother. She would have been 82 today and this was her favorite time of year.

Every fall, she and my Dad would drive up to the Skyline Drive to see the amazing display of red's, oranges and yellows. As long as I can remember, seeing the fall colors anywhere was probably at the top of her list of simple pleasures.

Our birthday's are only 7 days apart and in the past decade or so, the cards we exchanged got more and more outrageous. You never received one card from her -- it was usually 5 or 6. And in recent years, they were often animated with music or funny sayings, and a few always contained political satire. I had a hard time keeping up and to this day, have no idea where she got some of them.

Buying a birthday gift was always easy -- Borders gift cards. She was a voracious reader and since her town didn't have a Barnes and Noble, and she didn't want to buy books online, gift cards it was. A few weeks later, I would get a call in which she would describe what books she had bought and usually, already read.

Linda, being an avid scrap booker, reminded me the other day how much interest Mom took in whatever project she was working on. The projects of late included a multi-volume scrapbook of our daughter's wedding and thankfully, she got to see most of the completed project. She was unable to attend our daughter's graduation from medical school but Linda prepared a wonderful scrapbook that I was able to deliver personally. She took quite awhile savoring each picture and asking very pointed questions about each one. She died a week later.

Of all the poetry I have read, none describes her life as well as Robert Frost's classic. She always took the road less traveled, and everyone she met on that journey was a better person for it.

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What I Learned at Interbike

Disclaimer: This is the first industry wide trade show I have attended since they were regional shows in the early 1980's. I attempted to see the whole thing in one day which means I certainly missed stuff -- but I saw enough!

Apparently, there is a shortage of helmet selection in the industry. I stopped counting at 20 separate brands.

There is a perceived market for:

$400 floor pumps
$200 frame pumps
$700 helmets
$900 bike shoes
$300 jerseys

Custom bike shorts. You go into a room, fondle some fabric swatches and provide numerous measurements. In 2 months, you get new shorts. Price unknown. I thought spandex provided a custom fit already (within reason)

BMX -- is huge, at least everywhere but Minneapolis. Those dorks who got stuffed in lockers when I was in high school? If they can risk life and limb riding a board or bike, they are guaranteed 2 hot chicks hanging on every word. They also speak in tongues -- no idea what they say, but it sounds righteous.

BMX for senior citizens -- there were a number of guys who had to be within a decade of my age still trying to throw a BMX bike around with some success. They should seriously check up on what Medicare covers cause they will be in big trouble in a few years.

Adult beverage ESP -- At exactly three PM, almost every booth produced beer in some shape or form. The biggest had caterers bringing out kegs while the rest had coolers hidden and waiting for the signal. I had beers thrust into my hand more than once. Even the kids in the BMX zone were imbibing but given what they do for fun, a few dead brain cells is the least of their worries.

Bike fitting -- there were numerous bike fit systems represented. I stood and watched a fit
demo by a world famous "fitter" as he attempted to fit a middle aged rider to one of the uber- expensive time trial machines. At the end of the process, we all thought the seat height was wrong. The "fitter" told us, and I quote "a shop's ability to charge $500 for a fitting is the difference between profitability and mediocrity".

Note to Jim: I think we need to modify the "arm pit method". They're going to expect more for their $500. Maybe a beret and clove cigarettes?

Nitrogen -- I also listened to a guy pedaling a nitrogen system for shops. Nitrogen allegedly prevents normal tire deflation and can be a "profit rocket" for shops. Apparently, if you charge customers $5 for a shot, they will be customers for life. I think it would be cheaper to mark a pump "nitrogen" and be done with it.

Special People -- there were several vendors who had enclosed booths and only allowed "VIP's" inside. I always believe in asking forgiveness rather than permission so attempted to enter 3 of said booths. I failed in two attempts, blocked by rather swarthy women. On the third, I followed a group in and hung out for about 2 minutes before exiting. What was the secret? Oversized BMX bikes. At least that's what it looked like.

Seriously, there was lots of interesting stuff as well. But I have completely forgotten what it was. Getting old sucks.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

She Could Always Draw a Crowd

On a hot hazy afternoon, we buried my mother at Arlington National Cemetery. Her final resting place overlooks the Potomac River and the city she loved.

Almost 100 people came to her service, some traveling from Europe to celebrate her life. Wine and food were served, and while there were no formal speeches, many shared their memories and stories of her with us. I learned much and one never knows the impact one person can have on others until they are gone.

She had an enormous influence on me personally, and is the one person whose example I most wanted to follow. We didn't always agree but respected each other, no matter where we stood.

She lived life her way to the end and despite a 9 year battle with cancer, never complained once. In the end, she went with her wit, dignity and sense of humor intact.

God speed Bette Mullen. Save some wine for the rest of us!!

"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give."
Sir Winston Churchill

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cycle Utah

I just returned from working Adventure Cycling's Cycle Utah trip and it was a great time. Great staff, great participants and IMHO, some of the most beautiful country on this planet. The more time I spend in the west, the more I am convinced I am a westerner at heart -- the grand vistas, dry air and lots of public land to explore. No move west is imminent but it has long been a dream of mine so hopefully, it will happen.

We spent a night outside Bryce Canyon National Park and the staff did a hike on the Peek a Boo trail. All hikes in Bryce start at the rim and go down into the canyon.

The trail ahead.

Yep, that is the trail.

Bryce is famous for it's hoodoos, rock formations carved by wind and rain.

The Wall of windows.

The most challenging day for riders is the climb from Panguitch up over Cedar Breaks to Cedar City. They had really great weather for it with some wind at the top and relatively warm temps. In years past, this ride has been done in snow and rain.

Some snow remains over 10,000 feet.

The ride also goes through Red Canyon just outside of Bryce. The crappy cell phone pix really do not do the colors justice.

Home next week and then the missus and I travel west to Seattle where I will work, and she will ride ACA's Cycle Washington. We hope to stop along the way at Teddy Roosevelt NP, Glacier (I'm hoping to ride the Going To The Sun Road) and Missoula, MT.

Look for FaceBook and possibly a blog post or two along the way.


Friday, May 28, 2010

A Life Well Lived

Bette Mullen
1928 -- 2010

Wife, mother, grandmother, friend, mentor and inspiration.

I have no doubt that, upon meeting St. Peter at the gate, they cracked a bottle of wine, discussed all the challenges in the world, and came up with a plan to solve them. She lived life her way to the very end, and left the world and the lives of those she knew, a better place.

"It is not length of life, but depth of life."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, May 7, 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

How Cool Would It Be . . .

to have an interstate travel system for bicycling? Believe it or not, work has been underway for some time to create a network of roads that cyclists could use to connect to almost anywhere in these United States.

Adventure Cycling, an organization that I both support and sometimes work for, is trying to raise $20,000 towards that effort. I have already donated $50 and since many of my readers are cyclists as well, would encourage you to participate as well.

It's really easy to donate here, and contribution of any size will make a difference.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Is It Possible

to be completely "biked" out? To have ridden the local trails, paths and routes so many times that you just can't do it anymore?

For that matter, can one be totally "biked" out? I've got more bikes and stuff than any one person deserves - and really can't get enthusiastic about riding. It's gotten very easy to find something, anything to fill my time other than riding. I still love hanging around with people who do ride, supporting them in their efforts, but actually riding myself has gotten challenging. Hell, I have seriously entertained the idea of getting a motorcycle.

And yet, an epic ride has been occupying most of my thoughts of late. The Silk Road, the length of Africa, the Great Divide, Trans Am, Trans Europe. But I could see doing it on a motorcycle just as easily as on a bicycle. I'll be 55 in a few months so if I'm going to learn to ride a motorcycle well enough for such a trip, it'd better be soon, don't ya think?

Biking is what I do. It's what I've always done. Is it time for a change?


Saturday, April 24, 2010

In The Throne Room Of The God's of Mud

HC was a proud sponsor of Trans Iowa 6 this year, and Jim and I drove to Grinnell, Iowa to help out. By volunteering, you are guaranteed a spot in next year's race (if there is one) and Jim has this quaint notion of attempting it. I have his back but am not sure I will be joining him.

What is Trans Iowa? It is a race of just over 310 miles that must be completed in 36 hours. There are 3 checkpoints with cut off times and you have to make it by the time or you are out. What makes this particular event so insane is: 1) most of the route is on gravel or the far more challenging "b" farm roads (more on that in a sec); 2) you don't know the route for the next section until you get to the checkpoint. You can't scout it using Google maps; 3) You cannot receive any support whatsoever. You are completely on your own. Break down in the middle of some road at 2AM? No one is going to come get you. And finally, it snows and rains in Iowa in the spring so the road conditions can be absolutely horrendous, as you shall soon see.

58 riders massed at the start in downtown Grinnell this morning at 4AM.

Ken and Scott raring to go

And they're off.

Jim and I were assisting at Checkpoint 1, located in the small town of Monroe. The riders had to cover 45 miles and arrive no later than 8AM to stay in it. It had been raining most of the night and the drive down there was through heavy rain and lightening. It continued to rain for almost three hours.

The first riders made it to the check point at about 7:20. This group contained last year's winner, Joe Meiser as well as some other heavyweights of the this type of event. By my calculation, they averaged something like 12 mph to get to this point, no small feat considering the conditions. Riders reported that lightening struck the ground very near them and they were forced to walk a 1 mile stretch of "B" road that was impassable. B roads are essentially farm roads that get no maintenance -- they are what they are.

The fast group took off immediately and more riders came in as the 8AM deadline drew near. Of the 58 riders that started, only 21 made it to checkpoint 1 by 8AM. Ken and Scott missed it by several minutes but were in good spirits despite the fact they had to ride the 40+ miles back to Grinnell and their car.


All of the bikes and riders that made it to Monroe were covered in thick brown mud. Many reported their brakes were already on the way out and drive trains couldn't be far behind -- and they still had 267 miles to go!!

Once all the riders were through, Jim and I planned to do some riding of our own. We opted to retrace the race's route back to Grinnell, and either ride from there or nearby. The first 15 miles or so took us through gorgeous rolling farmland over roads that were soft but drivable.

Remember that section of "B" road the riders walked? This is what greeted us at the beginning of it:

Jim and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and drove on. The absence of other tire tracks should have been the clue we were idiots.

Good progress was made despite mud that was inches thick.

We made it most of the way up that big hill but completely lost traction. We managed to get the rig turned around and were on our way out when we got stock trying to re-cross an old wooden bridge covered in mud.

And, no cell phone coverage. So I hiked a ways out and up a hill until I could call AAA. AAA is awesome but they don't cover towing morons who get their vehicles stuck on roads they should not be on. But Angie of AAA did call me a wrecker that arrived about an hour later. Two guys, both of who I know were laughing inside, carefully pulled me out of the ditch and I was able to drive the rest of the way back to the county road. We followed them back to Monroe where we could settle the bill.

Here is how the exchange went as I paid the bill.

Ronnie: "What were you doing Bajaing down that road?"

Me: We were trying to retrace the route of that bike race.

Ronnie: "It's a good thing you didn't get caught over that first hill. We'd have to send the big wrecker".

I can only imagine that it resembles this:

So, if you're traveling the "B" roads of Iowa anywhere near Monroe and need a tow, call Ronnie at Hewitt's Service Center and tell him Baja sent you.