Monday, December 22, 2008

skiing to tango

arrived by skis!
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
I wasn’t expecting many people at Sunday’s tango practica. Temperature was in the 20’s. Snow was historical and relentless. But since the 35-minute walk in my Ice Trekkers to the Viscount Studios was doable, I opened the practica for those crazy enough come.

Imagine my surprise when Marion showed up with her skies. She was wearing enough reflective material to make a randonneur proud.

tango skiers and biker
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

Then it was Jim. He locked his skis to the bike rack outside. Jeff, who arrived a little later (by mountain bike), wasn’t immediately recognizable cuz of his snow gear. “Come outside,” he said, “and take a picture of Jim and me with our skis and bike.”

Not to be outdone, Fred showed up a couple hours later … on skis … wearing a 3-piece suit! I think he must come directly from church.

All in all, there were 18 people who stopped by the Viscount to dance/practice some tango. Among them was Ginger (here from LeGrande), with whom I had a pleasant walk back to the 30th and Morrison neighborhood afterwards.

More pictures here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

a week of inclement car-less commuting

SNOW (along with relatively cold temperatures) arrived here in Portland last Sunday (Dec. 14). Even though fairly well-forecasted, it still seemed to catch people by surprise … probably cuz it’s officially not even winter yet.

Sunday Practica

Often, I host the Sunday Tango Practica by bicycle (particularly now since I have help with food procurement). But last Sunday, I knew attendance would be down. My teaching partner was advised not to drive down from Council Crest. The person whose turn it was to bring food declined to come in from Battleground, WA. Nonetheless, I put out an announcement that the practica was “on” for anyone who could safely get there, trusting that spare backup snacks and a little beer would be sufficient enough goodies for those who came.

I also decided to walk to the practica, a luxury that didn’t exist before I moved to SE Salmon St. I didn’t wanna drive, nor bike (cycling looked potentially dicey). So it walked to the Viscount Studios on East Burnside. It took 35 minutes. Not bad.

Yifang and Jeff ...
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
A critical mass of people showed up … eight for the class … and 20 more during the practica itself. Intrepid biker-tango couple (Jeff & Yifang) rode to the practica on their xtracycle. (Jeff’s spent considerable time in cold climates, and wasn’t too phased by Sunday’s storm.)

Weekdays to Beaverton & back

The biggest storm-related challenges, though (and their resulting scheduling problems) were yet to come. I needed to get to Beaverton by 7:30 Monday morning. And I didn’t wanna drive. (Too late to buy chains anyway.) Nor did I wanna bike. So, I walked to the bus, took it downtown to the Max, which I rode in turn to Beaverton. With all the connections and waits, it took 1 hour 40 minutes, and required a 5:40 AM departure from home.

I keep a bicycle at work for those days I don’t cycle-commute. This allows me to pedal on errands (and to campus) on those particular days. So on Monday evening (the 15th), I rode my Surly (a 29’er with ‘cross tires) home.

eastbound blue line
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
(Well, I rode it to the Beaverton Max Station, and then again from downtown homeward…a total of only 4.2 miles.) The ride(s) were pleasant enough. Not too much traffic. Spun the rear wheel a bit coming up slightly slick SE Salmon St [try saying that multiple times fast], but it wasn’t unmanageable.

I elected to return to work Tuesday morning via bicycle. Even though I started timidly (Salmon St. was slick), I fell down within a block or so of my place. (My hip’s still a bit sore.) But I managed the Hawthorne Bridge and downtown well enough, and actually enjoyed the ride through Beaverton Town Center and Griffith Park at the other end. But the sting of the morning’s fall was still present when I it was time to go home. So I walked home that evening.

This turned out to be the pattern for most of the week. Walk one direction. Alternately ride the other. I ended up with 5 trips using the bike, and 5 trips on foot.

Thursday evening (the 18th), I elected to ride home over Sylvan Hill. ‘Twas kinda spontaneous. When going up 110th Avenue north of Kohl’s, I was faced with the decision to either turn left towards Center Street and the Beaverton Transit Center, or continue riding across Walker, up past Lynne’s home, to the Hwy 26 bike path. I did the latter.

Past Walker, the road surfaces immediately changed, both in color and texture. I actually dismounted and walked on a hilly section of 107th. And I again walked the steep descending part of Melnore St. before Scenic Drive. Surprising, though, I was able to stay in the saddle ascending Knollcrest (leaned back on the rear wheel), and later on during the steep part of Pointer Rd (just before the freeway crossing to the cemetery). The color of all these residential roads north of Walker was white…and the texture crusty. It was like a very thin fresh layer of snow over older chunky stuff.
The descents on those funky surfaces inspired little confidence. So after coming down from the Sylvan overpass to the Zoo, I chose the Max for the rest of the journey downtown. No zoobombing. No descents down Hwy 26 to Goose Hollow. In downtown, it was lightly snowing, as it was in SE (which made it a pleasant and unhurried ride home.)

On Friday morning, Salmon St. didn’t look two-wheel friendly. And since my work bike was now home, I walked…both ways. In the morning I had opportunity to try out an new set of Ice Trekker shoe spikes, which worked great. They actually allowed me to jog to a waiting bus.

One outcome of this week is that I ordered studded snow tires … to arrive Monday. If they work half as well as the Ice Trekker shoe spikes, they’ll be a good investment. They do betray, however, a rather skewed sense of priorities. I have no traction devices for my car (and therefore haven't driven in a while), but I will soon for my bike.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

R-12 Complete! … a story of fragile knees, bike fittings, orthodics (finally!), & eventual success

Last January, I started working on an R-12 without even knowing it. Cecil and Lynne announced they were gonna ride the Scio Covered Bridges permanent that month, and then I figured that would be a good mid-winter challenge.

And an interesting challenge this R-12 thing has been (as is randonneuring in general). The whole experience, like my knees, feels fragile. In addition to a less-than-strong “motor,” (especially in relation to my weight), I kept having to baby my legs, careful not to stand in the pedals too much. Initially (several years ago), bicycling was prescribed as therapy for knee problems that materialized when I tried to train for a marathon. Nowadays, I sometimes need treatments to address bicycle-related soreness.

The R-12 could have gone by the wayside many times this year. I was a flat away from not completing the Clatskanie-Cape Disappointment permanent last February. A new saddle kept me sore and slow during Seattle’s Chili-feed 200k in March. I was the last finisher in every 300k I entered (one in April and two in August), and came in 8 minutes under the deadline in Seattle’s “3 Passes” 400k. (Thanks to organizer Brian Ohlemeier for sticking around till 8:00 AM on that May Sunday morning!)

Clearly, by the time September rolled around, I was committed to completing an R-12. But I was less than confident about finishing the “Desert Rivers” 600k scheduled later that month. So I rode an “insurance” 200k (the Skyline-Vernonia permanent) on Labor Day (along with Cecil and Joshua). Even on that ride, my knee problems flared up, which furthered my lack of expectations about being able to finish a 600k three weeks later. So I adjusted my goal … it became to do some riding on day 2 (something I was unable to do on my first two attempts at that distance).

I was discouraged enough on Labor Day to schedule another visit to a bike fitter. So I tried River City (the shop that sold me my LeMond). The fitter there (Dani) used a different approach than I had experienced before … namely … the use of inserts in the shoes!! Of course, she did all sorts of other cool measurements (I had to lie down on the treatment table for some of them) and adjustments (like shortening the stem). But the inserts were major. They allowed my knees (especially the right one) to travel in a relatively more vertical plane. They also allowed me stand up in the pedals more … and challenge the epic headwinds during the 2nd day of the “Desert Rivers” 600k.

Don’t think I had yet recovered from the 600k enough to ride October’s Bingen Bikenfest 200k very fast; I was still slower than the previous year. And inclement weather kept speeds down during the “Prairies & Wetlands” permanent on Veterans Day. But after some more bike-fitting refinements from Dani (on my fendered cross bike) and a steady stream of commutes over the Sylvan Hill, I started feeling more optimistic about my legs and knees. Maybe this R-12 thing would actually happen!

stopped in Dayton
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

And last Saturday, December 6th, it did!

Nine of us cyclists showed up in Newberg by 7:30 AM. The first job at hand (after checking in at the Thriftway) was to get Highways 99 and 18 to Dayton over with. Eight of us regrouped in Dayton. (Kevin had fallen behind with the first of many flats.) We settled into our own paces (except perhaps for Washingtonian speedsters Kramer and Vincent, who seemed quite happy to ride with the rest of us for much of the permanent).

I rode with Lynne most of the way to Dallas, with much of our conversation centering around handmade bikes and equipment. It became apparent how little capacity I have for some details (like the model names of different Schmidt hubs).

I met up with Sal at the Safeway/Starbucks in Dallas. That is the most uber-friendly coffee dispensary I’ve ever been to. The proprietor sent someone out to guard Sal’s and my bikes while we shopped or went to the restroom and then ordered espresso drinks.

Sal and I met up with Lynne as we left Dallas, and I followed them for the next half hour or so. My favortie line of the day came from Sal when he was talking about his PBP experience: "There are old French women there on beater bikes who'll whoop your ass!" Oh boy, something to look forward to in 2011.

North of Rickreal, I got a “first wind”, and took off through Amity, leaving Sal and Lynne to a more chatty pace. I caught up with Cecil near Dayton (she had just finished a roadside sandwich), and then again strove to get Highways 18 and 99 over with quickly. (Cecil’s technique.)

Most of us regrouped at the Thriftway in Newberg. ‘Twas interesting to see how content John and Vincent were to hang out there with the rest of us … not the customary hurried demeanor of faster randonneurs.

Originally uploaded by tangobiker

The group met up with John Henry and Joanne (and their beefy Cannondale tandem) as we departed Newberg. We separated a bit somewhere along French Prairie Rd, and I ended up tagging along with John and Vincent to Gervais. The two of them promptly pulled ahead leaving Gervais, as I settled in to a customary slower pace.

break in Newberg
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

In Mt. Angel, I beelined to the local public restroom, checked in at the US Bank ATM, and decided to take off right away back towards Newberg … for two reasons:

1. I wasn’t hungry (yet)
2. I wanted to maintain a more “relaxed” pace, something that would be harder if I left with everyone else.

I fully expected to be passed in Gervais, as that’s where I ended up eating, and adding layers of clothing. But it wasn’t till 10 miles later (on Arbor Grove Road) that John Henry, Joanne, Kramer, and later Vincent passed me. John Henry and Joanne pulled the train back into Newberg. Amazingly, I was able to more-or-less stay attached. We arrived at the Coffee Cottage in Newberg at 7:50 PM, 10 hours and 20 minutes after our morning departure.

textured sky
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

Shortly afterwards, Cecil did her customary check-in at Nap's Thriftway, as did Lynne and Sal a little bit later.

Unfortunately, the speedy Washingtonians (Kramer and Vincent) had to head straight back home. The rest of us (plus Kevin, who ended up riding 100+ miles despite 5 flats) repaired to the Newberg Burgerville, where we celebrated our successful R-12’s over sweet potato fries, milk shakes or hot chocolate, and some other non-customary food items.

R-12 celebrators ...
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

Weather was most excellent, even though the temperature was a bit nippy initially. All in all, a fine and encouraging ride with good and interesting people. For what more could one ask?

Cecil's blog
Lynne's blog
Vincent's blog
Kramer's blog (includes video)
my pics

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving day fixie ride...

Even though David Auker's "chatty" pace is quite a workout for me, I still look forward to what has become his annual Thanksgiving fixie ride through the West Hills of Portland.

I don't know how long he's done it. My first Thanksgiving fixie ride was two years ago, where he and friends did his "traditional" route from River City Bicycles South through Milwaukie and back. (photo from Nov. 2007 above)

But last year, he and his wife Sarah started a "new" tradition of starting from his home near Dosch and Hamilton in SW Portland, and feeding everyone beforehand.

This year, though, I've been riding my fixed-gear bike a lot less. Ever since I moved to the SE part of Portland 6 months ago, I've been favoring geared bikes, particularly in commuting over the Sylvan Hill between Beaverton and home. Between that and randonneuring, my fixie's sat largely unused since last May.

Fairmount Blvd. loop (2)
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

And hills on a fixed gear bike are tougher than ever. Nevertheless, I more-or-less stayed up with David and friends. The group got separated around Sunset and SW 18th, but regrouped after a couple laps around the Fairmount loop.

cleat problem
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

As the group approached Patton Rd, my left shoe-pedal connection started to feel sloppy, but it never occurred to me the screws were about to completely come out. By the time I reached Hewett Blvd, the cleat had totally detached itself from my shoe.

It's hard to remove a cleat from a pedal when it's not attached to a shoe. My small Crank Brothers multi-tool didn't seem up to the task, until in the hands of passerby Lonnie (of Portland Velo).

Originally uploaded by tangobiker

John Forbes, and later David, were already returning back homewards on Hewett Blvd. when I finally got rolling. I continued over to Fairview, through Washington Park, and downtown. Started to rain by the time I crossed the Steel Bridge and returned home. Total distance: 35.5 miles.

a few more photos

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

hiccups from hell

It's never happened before ... at least nothing close to this extent. Seven hours of hiccups! Started 'round noon yesterday, and they got "stronger" (complete with reverberations) throughout the afternoon and early evening. Made the commute home tedious. I elected to take the Max part way rather than cycle over the Sylvan Hill. 'Twas also accompanied by chills and mild sore throat.

The hiccups didn't abate till 7:00 PM. I went straight to bed ... didn't pass "Go," didn't collect anything to eat ... barely got my clothes off. Consulted Scott and Joy on the phone, each of them coming back with doctor recommendations.

Glad it's over. I called in sick from work today.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Olbermann on CA Proposition 8

This is interesting. (Saw it on Cecil's and Beth's blogs.)

I remember Keith Olbermann as a free-thinking, somewhat irreverent sportscaster back when I lived in LA (over 15 years ago; his hair's shorter and grayer now).

It's fascinating now (and good) to hear him deliver something so poignant and passionate.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Eleven down … one to go

poster gals ...
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
Even though I ride most brevets alone (‘cause of my speed, or lack thereof), I am not totally by myself. There are people tracking the riders’ progress. There are people to call if I need to bail.

Less so on a permanent. I have only done one 200k permanent totally on my own. That was last February … from Clatskanie to Cape Disappointment and Astoria and back. Despite one mishap on the Westport Ferry near the beginning, and a scary return on Hwy. 30 after dark, the ride went okay.

I was prepared to do another solo permanent in November, as it didn’t look like my schedule was gonna coincide with Cecil’s and Lynne’s. But when they mentioned the Prairies & Wetlands 200k on November 11 (Veterans Day) as a possibility, I decided to jump on it, and take the day off work.

Mother Nature, however, put doubt into the plan. Weather forecasts predicted a particularly wet and ugly day. Unbeknownst to me, Cecil and Lynne conversed the night before about alternative plans. But since I didn’t hear from them, I showed up in Newberg well before the scheduled 6:00 AM departure time. As did they.

The weather turned out to be manageable, even though it slowed us down quite a bit. Last year (September ’07), I completed this same permanent in 10 hours and 30 minutes. This time, we were well over 12 hours.

The first info control was at the Gallon Bridge, followed shortly by the first timed control in Mt. Angel. The headwinds were stiff enough during these portions of the ride that we didn’t arrive till 10 minutes before cutoff. I didn’t bother to take any pictures until we verified our time at an ATM.

We got some tailwind relief on our return to Newberg, although our rest stop there was quite lengthy. While Lynne and Cecil went to the Thriftway, I checked in at Chapters Bookstore for a dry cappuccino made with Stumptown coffee. The 3 of us reconvened at the parking lot where we had left our cars, and then departed on the next leg.

Hwy. 99W from Dundee to Dayton is pretty abysmal. Lotsa traffic. Lotsa debris. Lotsa irregular pavement. I was amazed how thoroughly I blocked out this portion of the ride from my memory of last year’s adventure.

“Merkeley.” “Obama.” Left-over signs from last week’s election, seen on Gun Club Road (near Carlton). I guess street names have nothing to do with political persuasions or issues. Or perhaps nothing to do with anything at all.

Cecil rode in front most of the way to Forest Grove (actually for most of the ride), but got really hungry before finally arriving at Pizza Schmizza.

pizza in Forest Grove
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
Up until this point, the rain was fairly mild, even though my gloves were sopping wet. I put on a dry pair as we left Forest Grove, but they wouldn’t stay that way long. The return to Newberg was probably the rainiest part of the ride. It got dark ‘round Springhill Road, and the traffic on North Valley Road seemed particularly busy. Cecil had a little spill on a crease in the one-lane bridge that was reminiscent of my fall on the ramp to the Westport Ferry nine months earlier. Later on, Old Yamhill Road was pleasantly quiet. And navigating the rest of the return to Newberg benefited from Cecil’s and my previous ride of this route last year.

I guarded Cecil’s and Lynne’s bikes as they had their brevet cards signed at the Thriftway in Newberg. After a quick pit stop and getting my card signed as well, we headed back to our cars, loaded our bikes, and had some dinner (and changed into dry clothing) at the local Burgerville.

The three of us are now one permanent away from an R12. Sounds like we’ll do the Three Prairies 200k on either December 6 or 13. Anyone care to join us?

a few more pictures
Lynne's account
Cecil's account

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

121 miles (including a 100k populaire & some sausage)

Okay … blame it on David Sedaris.

I was an hour late to the start of the Verboort Sausage Populaire last Saturday, perhaps in part because I made a spontaneous visit to the Schnitzer Concert Hall the night before. During my Friday morning commute, I noticed on the Schnitz’s marquee that Sedaris was to perform that night. So even though the show was sold out, I stopped by on my way home from work and scored a scalped ticket at face value. (BTW, I’ve enjoyed his books, listening to him on radio, and his CD’s. But I think he’s funnier in person!)

Attending Sedaris’s performance on Halloween night created a cascading lateness effect on everything else I needed to do before Saturday’s 100 km ride. Bike prep. Dinner. Sleep. Yadadada.

On top of that, I had decided to ride my bike out to Forest Grove, so to keep my longer distance endurance more-or-less in tact. While it may have been prudent to take the Max from Goose Hollow to Hillsboro when I didn’t leave home till 7:40 AM, I took advantage of the full hour that the start of a randonneuring event is usually open. Even then, I ended up putting my bike on a bus between Cornelius and the Grand Lodge to ensure getting there by 10:00.

And boy was I happy to see Kathy there, along with Joel, a rider who I hadn’t met before who was equally late getting started. It was coincidental that Joel and I were both wearing STP windbreakers.

I enjoyed Joel’s company for the first 20 miles or so. He’s a nice younger guy who rides a carbon Raleigh and who's lived some interesting (to me) cities (like Milwaukee, WI). He pulled away in North Plains when I stopped to buy two AA batteries, cuz my freshly charged rechargables apparently didn't hold a charge any more.

Greg and Marcello ...
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
Hence, my first picture of the populaire is of Marcello and Greg at the Snooseville control/turnaround. Greg had his own adventures on the way to Snooseville that involved going back to Forest Grove to get a new tire.

‘Twas funny to me to have forgotten about the yellow pom poms at Cedar Canyon and Jack Road. I didn’t pre-read the info control questions, so the surprise happened upon arrival at the intersection. There they were, sadly weather and water beaten, but still hangin’.

weary pom poms
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
The pom poms were my contribution in hosting the Snooseville populaire 7 ½ months earlier. I remember driving out there well after dark last March and attaching those things by headlight. They were souveniers from a U of O football game at Autzen Stadium in Eugene over a year ago (the only football game I’ve been to since college).

On Kansas City Road I caught up with Beth, who I was happy to see pedaling strong with only 20-30 minutes to go. I was also happy to have a chance to talk to her … about bikes (xtracycles in particular) … and her blog (which I enjoy reading).

There was a nice little congregation at the finish that included Marcello, Kathy, Susan, David, and Kevin. After partaking of a sausage dinner

making it official
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
(with a nice lemon cream pie!), I headed back home, through Cornelius, Hillsboro, Beaverton, and over the Sylvan Hill (where it got dark), to SE Portland. Total miles: 121. (195 km)

A few more of my photos of the populaire are here.
Cecil's pictures.
Beth's blog report.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Marek Fire at Dawn

My niece lives in an area of Sylmar, CA (upmost Northern part of Los Angeles) that was evacualted because of the Marek wildfire. 70-mph winds pushed the flames across the 8-lane Foothill Freeway. Here's her message:

Hi Billy!

My neighborhood was definitely in danger at 5:45am this morning when we had a mandatory evacuation. As we left at 6am I could see flames at the end of the development on treetops and the hillsides just outside the area of the houses! Very scary.

Marek Fire at Dawn
Originally uploaded by Noe M. Torres
But they seem to have tackled it and got it doused, according to the news. The news video shots from the air show the hillsides behind the houses to be black as coal right down to the edge of the houses. The bulk of the fire crisis seems to have moved west down the 118 to Porter Ranch and Chatsworth now... Still it's all only 5% contained, and they're expecting more 70mph winds tonight. I'm staying at Omie's in LaCanada and hope to be able to go home soon, but maybe not till Wednesday when the weather changes... Keep thinking the good thoughts...

Hugs, Melissa

Boy I sure hope her place stays intact!

More dramatic photos are up at my other niece's blog.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

R-12: guess I'm comitted (Bingen 200k)

I kinda backed into this R-12 business … didn’t even know what one was when I joined Cecil and Lynne on the Scio Covered Bridges permanent last January. (The R-12 award is given by Randonneurs USA for riding a 200-kilometer event for 12 consecutive months.) But I must have figured something out (or became less vague) by mid-February, when I rode the Clatskanie-Cape Disappointment 200k permanent, alone. (That's the ride that pushed me into getting an E6 light … the result of an dark and scary return on Highway 30 to Clatskanie.)

Several brevets and a permanent later, I’m now 83% of the way towards completing an R-12. Too bad I didn’t do 200k rides last November and December. I would have then finished an R-12 a couple months ago, upon completion of the Detroit Lakes 300k brevet. But alas, I was probably too much into cyclocross during the last two months of ’07 to be in that sort of randonneuring mind.

I think Steve Davis of Tacoma had the right timetable … starting his R-12 last November, so that when he finished the Bingen-Lewis River 200k, he also completed the R-12 … without having to worry about long rides for the next two months.

I am now definitely committed to finishing an R-12. Why else would I have driven to Bingen early last Saturday morning? the rain. Like Cecil (and others I’m sure), I came extremely close to sleeping in. It’s not hard to find other things that need doing on any given Saturday … things that can wait till after you’ve gotten a full night’s sleep.

But once I started riding out of Bingen, I was glad to have made the trip. Paul Whitney’s company on one of the earlier legs was quite enjoyable, as was Nat Beagley’s a little later on. (They were the Richland, WA contingent.) And I particularly enjoyed getting to meet/talk with David Rowe for the first time at the now-famous (and much appreciated) FR-88 hot chocolate control.

It was also noteworthy to cross the Pacific Crest Trail. Seems like I’ve spent much of my life zig-zagging across that trail, be in the Angeles Forest (NE of L.A.), in the Sierra Nevadas, and at various points in the Cascades. Maybe someday I should trying hiking a significant part of it.

It was disconcerting to discover my pocket camera missing from my handlebar pack. So my only pictures of this brevet were taken in Bingen right before the start. But better to have left that camera in the car rather than my cell phone, which is what I did during the Desert River 600k. Fortunately, observant Cecil and Lynne got some good pix of this brevet.

I was so surprised to see Lynne’s Bleriot on the back of David’s car as it passed during the last stretch back into Bingen. Lynne DNF? Why…that’s crazy! But as it turns out, I’m glad she did (from a health/safety standpoint). Want her to be around for many more brevets.

I was surprisingly hungry once I got back into Bingen.

Bill A.
Originally uploaded by cecilanne
Fortunately, John had lotsa pizza and Coke available at Beneventi's upon our return.

And I ate my fair share.

My November schedule looks awfully full. I’m concerned that I may have to give up the Verboort populaire, and do a 200k permanent instead. Hmmm. We’ll see.

Thanks to John, David, and Trudy for putting on the Bingen Bikenfest! Even though it was wet, I enjoyed it just as much (if not more) than last year’s version. I only wish I had brought warmer gloves.

Cecil's blog
Lynne's blog

Thursday, October 2, 2008

karate monkey

Cyclocross season has already started, but the Cross Crusade starts this Sunday at the Alpenrose Dairy.

I already have a 'cross bike, but it's so set up for randonneuring that I went out looking for a multi-purpose frame that I could cyclocross with this season, and then do short track (next Summer) as well. I don't want to dismantle my Mountain Cycle Stumptown for cyclocross (lights, fenders, generator hub, etc.) while still working on an R-12.

latest aquisition
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

Enter a Surly "Karate Monkey" frame that Sellwood Cycle had on consignment. Its acquisition means I won't be riding 'cross with drop bars this season. But this versatile bike should work well in various other trail and single track applications later on.

The 29-inch (700c) Bontrager disc wheelset on this bike came from my Stumptown (and is what I used for the last two seasons of 'cross - among other things). The cranks and derailer are off my Specialized Rockhopper. (The cranks are 20 years old!) The seat and seatpost are from my LeMond "Buenos Aires."

Still had to get disc calipers, a right hand shifter, handlebar, stem, and a few other parts that Jeremiah (of Sellwood Cycle) installed. I went with a single chain ring, cuz I hardly ever got off the small ring during last year's 'cross season.

Took it out for a short spin to the Clinton Street Brewery tonight.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Graciela in Portland

biker with tango master
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
Graciela Gonzalez is one of Argentina's most significant teachers of Argentine tango technique. Many tango performers and teachers have studied with her.

I first met Graciela at Nora's Tango Week (in the SF Bay Area) in 1998, back when I had only been dancing tango for one year. I liked her approach to the dance and her style of teaching, and ended up (along with Robert Hauk) inviting her to teach workshops in Portland in 1999.

Carlos Rojas organized a subsequent visit from Graciela to Portland in 2001.

I saw Graciela in Buenos Aires in early 2002, where she got up from her seat at Salon Canning (one of the nicer tango dancing venues there) and walked out to the center of the dance floor to greet me. A nice welcome to tango mecca for a gringo like me! I ended up going to her practica in San Telmo a few times, even though it wasn't on the itinerary of the tour I was on.

What I like about Graciela's teaching style is her deliberateness. Rather than bombarding you with information, she meters things a bit more slowly, allowing concepts to seep into your body more thoroughly.

Luisa Zini organized this month's visit of Graciela's to Portland. I agreed to dance a demo with her at the Thursday night milonga at Urban Grind. We danced one tanda (set) together beforehand, and then performed to Donato's "La melodia del corazon." I think it went okay. I basically tried to give her space to be expressive.

The next day I took a private lesson from her. Boy was it humbling ... but in a good way, methinks. We worked on frame, posture, turns, and calisitas. Graciela's main message to me was to "stay with my follower." (Not unlike what Chicho told me 8+ years ago!) It's like you think you're doing it, but in reality you could be doing it a lot better.

Graciela at work
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

I attended Graciela's "leaders' workshop" at Paradise Studios the next day. Wish there had been a few more guys there ... her technique is so solid ... but those who were there seemed über-appreciative.

Graciela also taught at the Sunday Afternoon Practica. Even though it's billed as an "all levels basic technique" class, the level ended up being a little higher, as she catered to the majority of people in attendance.

Cool to have Graciela in Portland! Thank you Luisa!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Desert Rivers 600K brevet: a personal victory

Don’t know if I made “Super Randonneur” status, as I was a little late to the second-to-last control in Goldendale. (I flatted 7 ½ miles out of town.) But if Matt from Seattle finished in 39 hours and 57 minutes, then I finished in 39 hours and 58 minutes. And that was after I took a wrong turn from Hwy 97 to Hwy 14 before realizing The Dalles was the other way.

I have never worked as hard on a bicycle as I did on that 7½-mile approach to Goldendale, and then again on the rolling 17-mile stretch of Hwy. 14 approaching The Dalles. Nothing engages the endorphins like meeting a deadline in an incredibly strong headwind. The fact that my knees supported that effort amazes me.

And that I was still riding at all, close enough to finishing on time to even think about “going for it,” was a personal victory.

This was my 3rd attempt at a 600k brevet.

First two attempts

The first try (Hot Springs & Dune, June 2007) ended at the overnight control in Newberg with knees that would no longer pedal. This DNF could be attributed to a bike fitting the week prior, which left me using muscles not accustomed to long distances.

The 2nd attempt (SIR Four Passes, June 2008) ended in Selah, WA (outside Yakima) with too much exhaustion and soreness to continue. I think sleep deprivation was the main factor in that DNF.

But that didn’t address the general soreness I feel when riding over 200k. Just 3 weeks ago I experienced a bunch of knee pain that slowed me down on a 150-mile ride. This left me less than über-confident about my chances of finishing the Desert Rivers 600k. But dangit, I was sure gonna give it my best shot …

… which meant a lot more mental preparation and planning than is my nature.

Rewind a few years

About 8 or 9 years ago, I took a private Argentine tango lesson from a hot shot teacher from Buenos Aires. After complementing me on some facet of my dance improvisation, she said, “But Bill, sometimes you need a plan!” She was talking about tango, but she could have been talking about almost any facet of my life.

I was more up for the Desert Rivers 600k than any brevet to date, at least mentally. And I planned. I scheduled time off from work on the previous Friday and made a point to sleep in. I commuted over the Sylvan Hill (between Portland and Beaverton) four days during the prior week to keep my legs active. I had my cleat angles re-adjusted a week before. In other words, I took a little more control over the things I could.

I guess planning doesn’t guarantee success. But lack thereof inhibits it on a ride of this magnitude. A 600k is just too challenging for someone of my riding ability to take lightly. Sure, I had ways of not feeling devastated if I DNF’d (again). After all, there were quite a few wild cards to deal with (knees, wind, etc.)


I planned on the first day to stay inside myself, and not to try to keep up with anybody. I wanted to be able to ride on day two (from Richland), even if it wasn’t all the way back to the finish.

So that’s exactly what I did. I lost sight of all riders well before crossing the Columbia River. There were 2 guys started a little later than me; they both passed me on the bridge before Hwy 14. This was going to be another solo brevet.

The Ride: Day One

Seven hours and 104 miles into the brevet, I arrived at the 3rd control in Umatilla. That was an
unbelievably fast time for me to do century. “Is this what it feels like to be
Del?,” I wondered. But then I realized that the tailwind shortened everybody’s times significantly. A girl at the Subway deli estimated the previous rider was 40 minutes ahead. Before I left Umatilla, Chuck Hoffman arrived (on his Surly Long Haul Trucker). Said he overslept through two alarms (that’susually my trick) and got a ½ hour late start. I left Umatilla feeling pretty sure he would catch me again before Pendleton. But I didn’t see him again.

lotsa liquids!
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

Reith Road
(between Hermiston and Pendleton) was for me the scenic highlight of the brevet. There are train tracks that parallel much of the road, and at one point, a freight train flushed out a whole bunch of deer onto the road right in front of me. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough with my camera. The deer didn’t seem to at all intimidated by the wildly honking train whistle … they were much more engaged watching a solo bicyclist.

Reith Road ...
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

I never saw a “Blue Mountain Express Fuel” control in Pendleton, so I continued an extra half mile to a Dairy Queen, where I poured some coffee over the smallest size ice cream I could buy (infant’s size, methinks). Spent $1.75 there.

It was raining and dark by the time I arrived at the Holdman info control, but the weather mostly dried up by Hermiston. Bought two Odwalla drinks at the Safeway control, drank one, emptied the other into a water bottle.

In some aspects, the most difficult part of the brevet for me was the 12½-mile ascent up Plymouth Road. I had none of the adrenaline working for me that kicked in the next day … it was just a long, tedious, uphill ride in the dark with no visual end in sight.

The eventual descent on Clodfelter Road was fun (although I may have worn down some brake pads a bit). I missed the Interstate crossing and Leslie Road, though, and ended up making a detour through Kenewick. Amazingly, I was eventually able to find Richland and the Days Inn with the help of a convenience store clerk and two policemen.

I arrived at the Richland control well after 2:00 AM. Paul Whitney said “you’re all even now!” Yeah, with a lot less potential sleep than everyone else. Nevertheless, I think it was good for him to say that, as I ended up not feeling tired on day two with just the one hour of sleep. (I think this is where my sleeping in the previous Friday morning paid off.)

Before my nap, I took a bath to soak my thighs, and then applied two heat wraps to them. Philippe Andre had helped me purchase these heat wraps 15 months earlier in Stayton during the Hot Springs & Dunes 600k. These heat wraps didn’t seem to help much at all during that painful ride back to Newberg in June ’07, but they sure seemed to work on this brevet! I kept them on the whole 2nd day … didn’t remove them till my shower in The Dalles.

Day Two

The 2nd day was amazing for me … particularly for how much I was able to stand in the pedals. I don’t know how much was attributable to the cleat adjustments, or to the heat wraps. But being able to keep going up those hills and into those headwinds was surprising. I knew 600k would be challenging, but not this challenging. And to still be pushing it on Hwy 14 at 9:30 PM against those headwinds back to The Dalles was … well … oddly exhilarating.

I started at 5:30 AM with Cecil, Sal, and Andrew, but fell off their pace soon after leaving Richland (with their three bright red DiNote taillights pulling away). Later in the day, I passed them as Andrew and Sal were having issues with flats.

I used Starbucks for the control in Prosser, and an independent convenience store in Sunnyside. This area of Washington is a big wine-producing region, but this brevet was not a “Tour D Vines,” although there were quite a few hop fields and vineyards to be seen between Sunnyside and Mabton, and beyond.

Originally uploaded by tangobiker

It’s beyond Mabton where the brevet got interesting, with a nice, big, winding ascent to Bickleton. It was here along
Glade Road that Cecil caught up with me, then after a while, charged on ahead.

Cecil ...
Originally uploaded by tangobiker

For some reason, I thought Goldendale would be lower in elevation than Bickleton. If it is, it sure didn’t feel like it. Relentless false summits and headwinds is all we encountered. No wonder Cecil was worried about making the Goldendale 6:20pm control in time way back around
2:00. I was blissfully unaware of the Goldendale control time, only conscious of the 10:00 finish time in The Dalles. Nonetheless, my legs were still hanging in there, and I was on track to make Goldendale on time, when “psssssst.” A big gouge in my rear tire.

Sal passed me, and later Andrew, as I fixed my flat. Narayan caught up and announced that we weren’t gonna make Goldendale on time. And I (with naïve optimism) said “sure we will!” … and took off like a mad man. I still thought there might be a sizeable descent into Goldendale. But the descent wasn’t that sizeable, and what there was was well disguised by the wind.

The effort I put into the 7½-mile approach to Goldendale was like doing a time trial that meant something to you, or a 15 kilometer event at the velodrome … with no drafting. As I passed the 1-mile marker heading into town, my watch said 6:20. The cashier at the control wrote 6:25 on my brevet card.

Sal and I left Goldendale at the same time, but then I had to make some minor wardrobe adjustments. He’s a fast enough rider that it was a real effort to catch him. Having done so a few miles down the road, we tried doing the mini-paceline thing, but I was still worn out from my sprint into Goldendale, and let him go.

I was still on track to make The Dalles on time, except I made the mistake of believing the “L” on the cue-sheet, and forgetting that The Dalles is actually West of Hwy 97. Fortunately, I caught my mistake about half mile into it. Unfortunately, the return to Hwy 14 West required an additional difficult ascent into the hills above the Columbia River. And then there were the continuous 17 miles of rollers into the headwind … in the dark … with 18-wheelers buzzing by. Clearly there were some motorists who didn’t think I belonged there. Perhaps they were right. Not the passenger in the white pickup with two huskies in back, though, who yelled “fagot” (And Washington is the highest rated bike-riding state in the country?) I put in the same kind of effort on this stretch of road that I did on the approach to Goldendale, and amazingly, my knees still held up.

I guess there were 3 other cyclists who turned left onto Hwy. 14, Sal among them. He might have caught up with Cecil had he gone straight to The Dalles. As it was, I was fast asleep in the Motel 6 check-in room when he arrived.

After those 17 miles, the bridge back towards The Dalles is thankfully downhill, and it seemed as though 10:00 was still make-able. Of course, the Motel 6 was much farther West than I remembered from 39½ hours earlier. Around this time, Matt from Seattle caught up with me, and we foraged our way towards and down 6th Street. Matt was able to churn a bigger gear on his new Surly Pacer than me, and led the way the last few blocks to the finish.

Thanks to Paul Whitney and the volunteers for putting on this ride, for finding such cool roads, and for the encouragement. Next time, though, they need to be given access to the wind machines’ breaker switch!

Matt's blog
Cecil's blog
Andrew's blog
Narayan's blog
Sal's blog
my flickr set (9 photos)

Monday, September 22, 2008

What does one think about on a 375-mile bicycle ride?

This question was posed to me about a week before embarking on the Oregon Randonneurs Summer 600km brevet. And for the first half of the ride (18 hours), I spent time thinking about what I was thinking about.

It occurred to me that a cyclist could make significant headway into authoring a novel if he/she was properly wired to a dictaphone-type machine. The inspiring scenery coupled with the constant churning of legs allows one to reflect on a lot of life experiences, which can metamorphose into phases, sentences, and even paragraphs (in the rider's head). Could these narratives become interesting to anyone else? Hmmm.

On other rides, I've dissected many life decisions. I've catalogued most of the things I would do differently ... let's say within about the last 30 years ... if given the opportunity. Kinda like practicing extended solo psychiatry.

But on this ride, I created a blog. Not a blog entry about the brevet (that’ll come later), but a blog itself. What will it look like? What should I name it?

After many hours in the saddle, I came up with “rändo adagio.” With the obvious nod to long-distance cycling, the added umlaut is meant to encourage a pronunciation closer “rondo,” which relates to my previous life as a musician. “Adagio” reflects my natural gait as a cyclist (relative to other cyclists), be it at the velodrome, doing cyclocross, road racing (ha ha), or randonneuring. (I usually lose sight of other cyclists after the first turn or mile of whatever event.) The irony here is that the rondo form in music is generally known for its brisk character.

Randonneuring is a very conducive to journal writing, methinks, hence the many "blogified" brevets on the internet. Ironically, I stopped blogging soon after I started cycling over 3 years ago.

But I do like journalizing. And with the just-finished epic 600K on my brain (and the pain still in my legs), my re-entry into blogville commences.