Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Summer, Full on.

        It's been two weeks since my ice-filled helmet-vents bicycle ride (see my last entry)...and for ten of those days the high temperatures have hovered in the 90's, easily near 110F in the valleys below here. I actually love this heat...as you know, I am like a four year-old boy, the less clothes...the better. Especially in the lakes. This may have something to do with me being not very social. I am always looking for the secluded beach, in the secret cove. I only chunky-dunk with family and friends.
        Really, no one else should have to put up with the view of my white butt plunging into the water. When it's this hot, physical modesty takes a backseat to the giddy plunge. Even though it's blazing hot in the afternoon I love starting the morning with a sauna or even an uphill bicycle ride. Keep the furnace (body) burning...it's the only way to avoid becoming a 300lb. buffoon...nuffoon for now.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Winter Weather Mountain Cycling In June...

        Second Sunday in June and snow is predicted. I get two, sometimes three, good morning bicycle rides a week. You see, I am not retired but, my job is not that demanding and my credentials must be kept to a high standard as I am a cycling consultant and I have to know what it's like out there in the saddle. Even though the wake-up temperature is 39 and the storm is moving in, I suit up for a solo adventure into the hills between my house and Lassen Volcanic National Park...not even ten miles to the north. For the first time in fifteen years I am riding a new mountain bike (a Trek Procaliber) and I am excited to give it a workout. I'm in knickers and three layers on top, just in case the prediction comes true.
        I'm climbing a trail behind my house and in the first mile it starts to hail,  just little balls, better than rain, I'm thinking. My usual route is a little torn up (logging activity, they think they own the place) so, I take an alternate...it's been years since I took this old logging railroad route. The hail turns to rain, no big deal...I'm sweaty now. Five miles up this route and I come to a dead-end. I know the creek in the canyon to my right so, I decide to carry my new carbon fiber steed,  over downed trees and through the brush...no problem.
        My wife hates these hike-a-bike adventures. She especially wouldn't like this one as the Buckbrush is tearing at my shins and calves. I decide that crossing the creek (only two foot deep here) is the best plan. I'm already wet and the forest floor is much more open on the other side. That same open forest floor is turning white with accumulated hailstones. I'm squishing in my leather cycling shoes. Within minutes I find another remnant RR grade, now two hours into my "short workout" I find the paved Juniper Lake road...only six miles downhill to a warm shower.
       The hail comes down with a vengeance,  it's looking a lot like Winter...my knickers are white and my helmet vents are filled with ice...without my riding glasses this wouldn't have been possible.  I pull into my neighborhood, the lawns are white and the road is grey with slush...oops, I may be late for work...it's going to take an hour for me to thaw before I jump into the shower. I don't have an hour...I'll have to endure the pain of thawing in the shower and get into my work clothes. There it was, my first offroad adventure as a 67 year old...reminiscent of many other mountain bike excursions over these last 45 years...and I lived to tell about it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Getting My Legs Back

        Gnarly, knotted, under-inflated quadriceps (about the size of my thumbs) were talking and complaining to me this morning on our climb up Juniper Lake Road. These upper leg muscles were once the size of my wrists or forearms but now, there is no place for the increased blood flow to go. So, they scream and threaten to cramp and revolt....I keep finding a lower gear, to shut them up!
        I definitely need more saddle time. No progress is seen if I only ride one day a week. I really have to "get after it" three or four days a week to feel real improvement. My wife would have me out there hammering the hills with her every day, if she had her way...she's retired and a half-dozen years younger.
        We go on a cycling "fitness vacation" every other year, to some place where cyclists are loved and respected. We camp and ride hills every day...classic hills that most Americans have only heard of if they follow the Giro d'Italia or the Tour de France. We do it for weeks on end, usually about six weeks, this, combined with good eating and disciplined drinking, never fails to return us to a much healthier condition. The deal is...you really have to "want it"....feeling lighter, big airy lungs, blood zipping easily through the arteries, capillaries and veins.
        Just a few days before I complete my 67th year and I realize that I won't get all the way back to how I felt on my 57th, 47th or 37th but, I am out there cranking and turning them over...knees, ankles and quadriceps getting up the hills and down the road. Getting my legs back, it's a fantastic feeling.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Keep It Simple, Keep It Fun...Part 2

         We have ridden across the continent...West to East and South to North...and then some.
Cycling fulfills the need for independence, freedom and saddle-time meditation. Why complicate that? We are such suckers for "advanced" technology and we strive daily to fulfill the popular definitions of "cool" and "clever". The bicycle is an outstanding mode of transport because of it's Simplicity and Efficiency. Gears are good, brakes are excellent and pneumatic tubes make life almost perfect...cyclists haven't always had those conveniences and cycling wouldn't be near as popular without them.
         Complicating that sensation of "almost free" locomotion has fascinated progressives for over 120 years. Put a motor on it, add more gears, construct them with space age materials, electrify, superfly and  mystify the pedestrian bicycle users..."We can make some real money here." We all fall for "gotta-haves". Promotion and glorification of the latest and greatest products has run our economy for decades, but hey...is this really necessary in the realm of simple transport?     Not to the degree that we've witnessed with self-propelled two wheel cycles.
          When pedaling out across the countryside, unwinding from the daily complications of family crisis', workplace worries and world news...you really don't want breakdowns that you can't remedy with tools you are carrying on your cycle or in your back pocket. If you are rolling on tubeless tires, carry a spare tube. If you are depending on electronic shifting, bring an extra battery. If you have an electric motorized ride, make sure it can still be pedaled if you run out of juice...it's called an "electric-assist" bicycle. If you depend on your phone for rescue or directional information, make sure you have a small solar collector stuffed in your bag (or seat tube) to recharge your lifeline.
         If you 'keep it simple' and think ahead about your ride (and what it takes to keep it rolling) you'll re-fall in love with cycling every time you crank beyond the borders of your village.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Keep It Simple, Keep It Fun

        I've been trying to explain where the bicycle world (mainly the bicycle industry) has seriously gone wrong. I keep coming back to the same realization... 'Died in the wool' cyclists are cyclically victims of a "motor mentality"...specifically, direct attacks from the motorcycle "schwabs" who are continually trying to make our sport and livelihood, theirs.
        This began a half century after cyclists had been earning their way on the cobbles and dirt paths around America and Europe. The internal combustion engine was introduced to (and fornicated with) the convenient triangle at the heart of the bicycle frame. Indian, Harley (originally bicycle manufacturers) and others locked us in a fume-filled room, tied us up and extracted some of the valuable secrets concerning two wheel travel that we held close to our souls.
        It took seventy years for the self-propelled cycle-lovers to get our mojo back...thanks to pods of Hippies and College professors on both coasts of North America a new bicycle energy was born in the mid-seventies. We had a new secret code...we were lifting our steads over fences and boulders, we were traversing washouts and exploring the small paths where motorbikers were not capable or welcomed. Their bikes were too heavy and too loud and they were dependent upon petrol...we had none of these limitations.
        During the last couple of decades, however, the motorcycle (and technology) "schwabs" are making inroads again into the simple and sacred world of the bicycle. Battery power, fluid charged brakes, electronic shifting and analytics have attached to the perfect machine like Louisiana leeches on a swamp dog. The bicycles are heavier and complicated with gadgets that are seriously superfluous and limit our ability to enjoy economically the freedom that comes with pedaling the damn bicycle down a country lane.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Boy In Search Of A Plan

        I was eighteen and I had to get out...I had a thirst for adventure. I had digested every Herman Melville book (mostly about traveling the South Pacific)  in the Portage Northern library. An imperfect relationship with my stepfather in a small suburban home, in which eight of us shared one small bathroom...helped pushed me out the door.
         I'd applied to Universities in Hawaii, Alaska and Annapolis, Maryland. My good citizenship in academia, not my grade point average, resulted in acceptance to all three directions from Michigan. I was a hard worker throughout my teens and an avid baseball fan. The Detroit Tigers had World Series rings for the first time in my lifetime so, all I had to do was sell my 1965 Ford Mustang and buy an airline ticket out of there....chapter complete.
         I decided against an 'all expenses paid' six year commitment to the US Naval Academy or a period of study on Alaska's frozen tundra, in favor of, a Melville-inspired move to the remotest archipelago of year-around warmth on the planet. Yes, I was running away to "find myself". During the summer of 1969 I found myself wrapping silverware and cleaning ovens between two of Honolulu International Airport's two busiest runways...working in the United Airlines flight kitchen. Hawaii was complicated, I crashed my newly acquired Honda motorcycle three times and met the perfect 19 year old girl, on vacation from the San Francisco Bay area.
        An airline ticket to SFO cost me $12.42 (taxes only) a few months later...I was following a tip from my U of H advisor that San Jose State College had the best journalism program in the western US and he could get me accepted there. I was also chasing "the perfect girl. I got an internship at the San Jose Mercury News and a month later they put my picture and an important fragment of my story on the front page of the 'morning edition'     ....to be continued.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Good Times Ahead

       " It has to get worse before it gets better"...who said that? Yeah, like remodeling a home or reshaping a life. We all need perspective...before and after pictures. Well, it's early February and NorCal is having some weather issues that revolve around excess precipitation after five years of drought. Which is worse and which is better? The pendulum swings to and fro, at what point do we decide we are satisfied? Some are never satisfied. 
        I am making a concerted effort at adopting "perpetual satisfaction"...focusing on those things that are perfect right now. My relationship with the 'Love Of My Life' which next week is a 41 year bond. The fact that I have two workable legs, two workable arms, two good eyes and two good ears... I've been concentrating heavily on Thankfulness during the last year or so...it has made a difference.        
        I'm particularly fascinated with Mockingbirds... their song changes so radically every twenty seconds. You might think that they are not happy with who they are...but, I think they just enjoy being every bird out there...searching for excellence in song, the tune that makes them feel great for the moment.
        My advisors in the early 70's would say, "Be Here Now" and "Don't Push The River"and "Just Feel It."  I get that, we are only influential through how we live our lives...not by what we preach. We cannot change the circumstances of the day but, we can tune in to the excellence of each moment. I try to stay with that for the majority of my waking hours...not easy but, I think a worthy goal. It's right there in front of you, the green leaf, the flower, clear water, birds, little critters, blood coursing through your veins....miracles that we witness every second. Take a moment...because that's all you get...fantastic moments.