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