Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Cauldron

I have just read Robert Higdons post "what it takes to volunteer". I realized that my last entry was a tribute to RUSA volunteers in June. Dereliction!
Geoff, Kole, Mark and I Volunteered to Pre ride the Crater Lake 1000K Unsupported. We left the Seattle ferry terminal last Wednesday, a cloudy drizzly evening. At Bremerton it was raining and would rain for most of the 70 plus hours that it took to complete the ride. Problem from the start, I had lost the backlight to my GPS unit temporally. So I stayed behind the Guys who all have units to avoid the first navigational pitfall, the somewhat tricky turn from the 304 into Belfair Hwy. Much too early for bonus miles. We took temporary shelter at the Matlock store from the rain. A man inside the long closed store wondered, we made reassuring signs, wrote in our zip-locked Brevet cards and disappeared into the cold wet night. I suffered my circadian 0500 disorientation just before Raymond and hoped coffee at the gas station would help. Daylight was much more of a supplicant. Respite came with the Naselle Diner, by that I mean breakfast and friendly faces, as Mark looked out of the window and noted it was pouring. We dripped out leaving puddles in the previously dry establishment and crossed over the mouth of the Columbia into Astoria. We stopped to eat again at Cannon Beach before tackling some high rollers of the 101, the rain lightened a bit, but the wind picked up, a headwind that caused a few touring bikes with heavy looking panniers to dismount, go figure. Pacific City finally, felt great to be indoors, made good use of our time and left early just after midnite, there is no bonus time until after Reedsport. Weighed down with extra food and drink we faced a sub 1000ft climb and more rollers. Here I lost both my Edelux and GPS. At Reedsport I make a tactical decision to try and sprint ahead to Roseburg before all the Bike stores close. Mark uses his Smart phone to locate the stores, while Kole (who has volunteered to run with me) and I, wolf down a sub. No time to pack more supplies we leave, the stores we called closed at 1730 giving us over 6 hours to cover close to 80 miles including a 2000ft forest road climb. What goes up will fly down, but I know from the Permanent (pre-ride of the pre-ride) that it is not an easy descent. We enjoy the Idyllic Camp Creek road with increasing confidence and then Kole gets a front wheel flat. Fixed, we push a little harder till we hit the stiff grades. Kole darts ahead, to find the information control at the summit and I summit to his declaration that it is all fresh gravel on the descent. Without a second glance at him I plunge into the gravel at a high grade, alternating between the front and back brakes to avoid a heat blow-out. I find 17mph very unnerving. As the grade eases bringing some relief to my cramped brake hands, it starts to pour. Kole appears as I put on more clothes and I realize that my legs have nothing to work with. Kole volunteers a baggie of Pistachios and some liqorice, I am so grateful. We find the Lighthouse Bakery before Roseburg, and to hell with it, we treat ourselves. We drag to Waldrens still open at 1800, which sells me a planet bike front light. And we soft shoe it to the overnight. Out on foot (no more sitting) to find dinner we run into Geoff and Mark. We decide to re-route to cut out that descent on the Tyee access road, sad that the camp creek road will go with it. We buy lots of food and drink and depart after sleep, just after 0100. Now for the featured climb from Roseburg to the Rim Village in Crater Lake, well over 7000ft but also 92 miles away. Geoff and Kole ride ahead and Mark and I take our time. I enjoy the climb better than the last time during the Permanent, mostly because it is cooler and there are no mosquito attacks. Mark seems unabashed by my constant Yakkity-Yak. Then we get to the rim. We are in a rain cloud at near 8000ft, I dare to peer at the lake close to the edge of the rim.
It is a witches cauldron. Visibility is appalling and all blinkies are on for safety reasons, we ride close together to increase our visibility. After a much needed rest stop at the Village where Kole and Geoff were kindly waiting for us, we descend to Fort Klamath. We run along the west side of Lake Klamath and then turn towards Klamath Falls. Barring some sections with poor to no shoulder, this is a pleasant end stretch. We make our Objective of catching Sizzlers still open. Straight for the Salad Bar!
The Ride starting tomorrow will be largely unsupported, though there will be drop bags. Geoff and I will carry these and help in any other way that we can. I find Volunteering the most stressful and challenging aspect of our sport. It is very rewarding.
My friend Ward Beebe took this shot of a volunteer at Mckenzie Bridge, during the Willamette Headwaters 600K, underneath are his accompanying remarks.

Good to see you Saturday night. Too bad we didn't get to say good bye Sunday morning.

Thank you Buddy

Weather looks promising, it is my hope that We have taken it for you.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Sisters of Mercy

The Words Of Leonard Cohen;
The sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone
They were waiting for me, when I thought that I just can't go on
And they gave me their comfort, and later they brought me their song
I hope you run into them, you who's been traveling for so long
Thanx all RUSA Volunteers

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Man Who Danced Too Slowly

Baka mythology holds that the first humans that populated the earth were reincarnated as animals. This explains why different animals, to them carried some human trait. perhaps it engendered better respect for the animals and care of the environment.

The millipede descended from the man who danced too slowly. The Baka, very small in stature, live in a very dense tropical rain forest devoid of modern day industrial noise. In adaptation they have come to develop excellent hearing, which is more important in relation to sight in such a setting. It followed that they acquired a fine sense of music, which was central to their sense of community. Their language does not distinguish between song and dance, it is the same word.
As I think about this, and this creature the millipede, I wonder what their thoughts were about "the man who danced too slowly".
My Fleche and Dart team-mates, and my Permanent and "Temporary" riding buddies have probably noted my slow grinding cadence. I think this results from, and I quote Geoff "I have only three fast fibers".
Memorial Day Weekend was to be the Pre-Ride of the OBM 1000K, I decided to ride the lighter Nwachinemelu (the one the spirits favor). She had been hanging from the ceiling since returning from Sydney for the Alpine 1200K. I felt she should be even lighter now with new Mavic Open Pro front rim with the SON Deluxe hub. However she has had Drive Train problems in the past, especially with wet weather, with her Compact Double crankset and external bearings. So off to my LBS (Local Bike Shop) where yes! need new bottom bracket, chain, cassette and big ring, but the inner ring was as good as new.
It was Salvatore Maranzano that was reputed to have said; "Mr Luciano does not like to dance, but when the music plays a rat a tat a tat, he will have to dance."
What I am trying to say is that I learned to spend a lot of time in that inner chain ring.
So if you are going to ride The OBM 1000K, do not forget your dancing shoes, I mean climbing shoes, and your beauty appreciation glasses. Because the Oregon Blue Mountains are not just blue, but also come in green, amber, elkhorn, strawberry with a dusting of icing sugar, but mostly keep coming.
Thanks to John Kramer, Eric Ahlvin, Vinny Sikorski, Kole Kantner, John Pearch and Dave Read.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Loneliness of a Distance Rider

[Cogito Ergo Sum] I think therefore I am! This was the single truth that allowed Descartes his "reversal of doubt". Then he goes on; "At first nothing more is proved by this truth, I think therefore I am, than the existence of my thinking self. My doubts still remain about the existence of my own body and about anything else that is other than my thinking. To say Cogito ergo sum is to affirm my existence: But what then am I? A thing which thinks. What is a thing which thinks? It is a thing which doubts, understands, affirms, denies. wills, refuses and which also imagines and feels."

the Distance Rider affirms that every rider has a finite number "x" of pedal strokes. He imagines and hopes that the current stroke, will add to the total number, not subtract from the residual. He understands the rationalist argument that the afferent (input) is highly virtual and that the efferent (output) is observed and measured by the virtual afferent. It is the processor that does the Math in the Matrix.
The Distance Rider cannot break fast out of the blocks, he cannot will himself fast, out of the pain of the age he would deny. He needs time and then he prays to a Gut, that he is not sure exists. If it listens, he may surprise himself on the fourth day of a Grand Randonee. He is after all the "knowing substance". Everything else, perhaps, particles of change, orbiting the sun.
The Distance Rider listens to Leonard Cohen and Tupac Shakur. Sometimes he does not hear them at all, for the screaming of drunk youth in a pick-up truck, and the collective "Ribbit" of all his frogness. He imagines the most perfect silence, when there is no need to speak, there is no need to explain, no need to show that something is true, seeing the same picture from a different point of view. He feels the best moment, when we all come from different circumstances and flow with the Ferry in the same direction.
the Distance Rider does not grade Riders, he grades Rides. He knows that no two rides are the same even if exactly the same course. His highest grade he awards to the Next ride. He refutes that the earth is either round or flat, but will twist you in every direction but loose.
He longs with foreboding the challenge of the mountains. Yet he understands that the wind of the flat lands is as capricious as all his x's that do not reside in Texas. And when it blows east of the mountains, makes rolling resistance a spit in the Ocean. The Distance Rider has heard of several R-goals, his goal is Recovery and better still on the bike.
The Distance rider will encounter many bodies of water. Looking into each one, he finds the same reflection looking back at him, a shaking head, as one mourning, for it is the very last time he will be like today. He wonders what Descartes, Spinoza and Liebniz think of change in "the thing which thinks". He proclaims that a thing that thinks is a thing that lets go. So he lets go of the wheel in front or the slower behind, he knows that he cannot own.

The Distance Rider does not sprint for minutes and seconds but he will sprint for a Ferry or Traffic lights, someone please ask him what is the difference? He does not eat a mix of 65% carbohydrate and 35% protein. He eats roadkill, always with a big dose of fat, more bang for the buck. He loves his equipment, he does business with it, but he does not trust his equipment. He affirms that "a bad workman blames his tools", "a good one fixes his tools". A weight weenie with a bag of tools seeking to gain time on the climb and a prudent descent.

So perhaps beyond the boundaries if your imagination, is a world of "knowing substances" such as him. If he could get you there, he would show you a deeper story and the Loneliness of a Long Distance Rider.

For my Friend
Kantner "Ukwu Elu Ani" Kole

When a child living just east of the River Niger (from which Lady Lugard coined the term Nigeria) there was much myth about the Great Onitsha Market on the Niger. Rumor had it that as much as half of the beings at the market were from the world of "spirits". One could easily find out who they were by pretending to drop a coin, and then bend to pick it up, and look to see whose "feet did not touch the ground" (Ukwu Elu Ani).

On the Country Link Train from Melbourne to Sydney, I learned that Kole rode up to 17.000K in the villages of West Africa without his feet touching its red (laterite) earth. I there and then bestowed him with the title. On a brevet you may hear me salute with the title, if I can get within earshot.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Slender tubes, handlebars wide
Would you take me on your Brooks for a ride
If I should crash
Could you limit it to just road rash

Forest, show me how to roll
And to eschew one more meaningless goal
Seems I spent my life running around
But here on these pedals my feet do not touch the ground

Let us roll through the Cascades
Temper the heat with your shade
Oh Forest! carry me to heights
Where singing breezes blow in the night

Please do not let me fade
As we take on another stubborn grade
For if I keep at it, I guess
I will face what I repress

Forest! now dark and deep
Wear me out so I can get to sleep
An hour or two before the light of day
Rush your endo's to take this pain away

Thanx to Boxer Bikes

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lord of the Flies

"You just catch one of them f---ers and tear her wings off."
Andrew Bragg comforting me at the Hanging Rocks.

Andrew Bragg signed up for the Cascade 1240K a couple of days ago. Brings back some recent memories. At Corryong Kole and myself had shared the room with Bill Olsen, and Simon. Bill Olsen left earlier in the morning. Simon, Kole, and I left Corryong 2 hours after the Control closed. What could go wrong now, the wind I thought, little did I know. The 3 of us had been riding together for a while now. Our common African heritage made for rich conversation. Simon by his familiarity, domicile and employment mostly in Nigeria. Kole for work teaching children in Benin Republique and I by virtue of birth. With time together on the road we were now blending our individual styles for more efficient travel down the road. Andrew joined us and we traded pulls. Talk about fried plantains, bushmeat with palm oil and pepper and giant escargot made me hungry and hungry is good on a Randonee. By the BellBridge we were well on time. We were traveling in the same direction as the Australian bushfly I would learn to call them Beelzebub.
When the first colonists came ashore in 1788, they brought with them 2 bulls and 5 cows, there are now approximately 20 million cows in Australia and a plethora of cow poop. Cow poop makes excellent nests for the bushfly, so they flourished, The occasional but regular warm winds from the north between August and November picks up females full of eggs as breeding was maintained in the warmer north and blows them south. Breeding in geometrical progression creates waves of pestilence traveling south. Shortly after Corryong as the sun became stronger I would note hundreds of these flies sitting on the back of the rider in front of me. They become more active with radiant heat and are mostly smaller females looking for enough protein to remain fertile. They find it in tears, nasal secretions and blood from a skin opening, they are programmed to follow animals. Others are just looking for water and minerals.

Fortunately by Wangarrata most of their onslaught had ebbed. I had spent much of the afternoon and quite a few calories slapping every inch of my body. The Aussies (and some came prepared with chemical repellents) are quite used to this, though Simon once did cough violently after one flew down his lungs.

Kole, that guy is impervious, he advised that I find a mind over matter solution. It helped, I focused on one thought, I would ride through and arrive in Melbourne before the sun could get them airborne again. As the sun and the bushfly went down I felt strong, as we approached the overnite at Euroa riding with David and Peter from Wagga Wagga, Simon developed a rather acute Achilles tendinitis. I have seen this end a 1200k before so I was concerned. Simon was tough, we told jokes to keep endorphins high and in Euroa hit him with ice and NSAIDs.

He made a marvelous recovery, so in the morning all four of us set off for the final 200k.

I know the enemy, I have looked into his face. As the sun hit noon high, we are climbing into the Hanging Rocks.

They struck again, I guess I am a big moving mass of blood, sweat and tears and snot too. My only reprieve was, shaded areas were they lost the radiant energy, and speed which was not possible on the steep pitches.

Passing cars with their wind was a surprising comfort as, I pedaled, slapping and popping wheelies. Andrews words gave me long lasting mental supplication.

At Lancefield a group of riders have gathered, some are on an Audax Australia 200k. The remaining 80k is beginning to look like an eternity. We, without planning, seem to all leave together in a little peloton and a glorious tail-wind pushed us towards Melbourne. I am in the back with David from Wagga Wagga and unmolested. David must have read my feelings for he turns to me and says in that accent "God roides a boike".

Albert Park in Melbourne! Oh what a beautiful sunny day.

Thanx to Andrew Bragg
See you in Farmer WA.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


My ears he uses to hear
Still ignoring all my fear
In the upper paddock
As if concealed behind a rock

These arms he uses to shove
Shoved away everything I love
He has control
He intends to take a toll

Hustling me up to Corryong
Wondering what took so long
He will heed no whine
As he forces his will over mine

Nobody knew my fragility
Nobody quite like he
Up in there
Taking over the upper sphere

There is a Wallaroo in my head
Who never, never goes to bed
All nite like cicadas, so fascinating
Always, so response evoking

Many things shall never pass me by
To fight him, I no longer try
I just keep my eyes open to see
For the little Roo in me.

Thanx to Simon Maddison

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Road to Cabramurra

"He's got a kangaroo loose in the upper paddock"
-Simon Maddison on learning in Corryong that I was on my fourth Grand Randonee for 2009.

We were headed for the Snowy Mountains or the "Snowies" as they are referred to in Oz. They are part of the Australian Alps the highest mountain ranges in the Continent and part of the Great Dividing Range that straddle New South Wales, the Capital Territory of Canberra and Victoria. These ranges were inhabited from time by Aboriginal tribes and the ranges initially presented an obstacle to British settlers seeking agricultural lands east of the range. We would pass through Cabramurra the highest inhabited town in the Continent. Running in the direction of the Hume Highway, we are rolling upward for about 125 klicks to the first control in Mittagong. It is beginning to get rather hot and humid and I am concerned. I will need some time to acclimatize after so much winter riding. There is a faucet in the Park and I wet down while worrying about my depressed appetite. Between Mittagong and Goulburn I skip a chance to refuel and suffer for it. Kole is wound up like a spring ready to release its potential energy, I reassure him that all will be well. By Goulburn I am starting to reassure myself also. The Greengrocer Cafe in Goulburn has all kinds of expensive bikes as part of the Motif. These interested me more than the assortment of edibles. I am able to push a couple of cokes down and a few calories.
It was Shakespeare in the "Merchant of Venice" that wrote.
"The quality of mercy is not strained
It dropeth like a gentle rain from heaven
It is twice blessed
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes"
So the gentle rain came and by the control at Gunning I felt quite capable of keeping all these promises. Rode with Phillip who we had met at Critical Mass, a Pediatrician and their riding buddy to the Capital Canberra and called it a night.
We had done 366k, more than the minimum distance of a Fleche, with 13,000 feet of climbing to boot, we are in Kole territory.
Intrepid French Randonneuse Sophie Matter had read the wind and rode on through the night, we take 5 hours of unwind, refuel and blissful sleep and re-saddle for the road to Cabramurra. 127k to Cooma, the next Control, we are trashed by 25mph winds both climbing and descending, I urge Kole to go on ahead and I keep low like the proverbial grass to let it pass. I even passed (no pun intended) on the train of a strong group of riders in that wind. Finally galvanized by the thought of how dangerous it would be to let Kole get a significant rest in Cooma, I stepped it up and picked up Rick Blacker and Simon Maddison just before Cooma. Found Kole ditch-napping and dragged him to a nearby restaurant and we had steak and fries, for the real climbing. Simon decides to join us and we pedal now as a group of three.

Beautiful Country these Australian Alps pictures cannot describe.

Next stop Cabramurra. It is cool and good climbing but we are wary of ice on the steep descents before the next steep climb. as it gets steeper Kole pulls ahead, soon we have all made it to Cabramurra the watershed. As we refuel there are a lot of Randos in the shop, the air is electric with a strange melange of exhaustion and exhilaration. Kole opts to split early, Simon and I follow shortly. Both of us are descending so fast (look out for Wombats) to Tumut Pondage, we whiz by Kole, but this is the low-point of the steepest most sustained climb or so it seemed. There is mayhem on this climb, riders are getting off the saddle and resting or walking. I promise myself to hold strong and focus on Simons blinkies just a little ahead.
When Kole gets off his seat to pedal, and that is a rare sight, it is like Michael Jacksons Moonwalk played in reverse. And just like that he was up and away. Slight technical issue, my Garmin charger was stealing the poor electrical current at the low speed from my E3 lights in that dark night. I pulled the plug on the charger, slowing a little, but still focusing on Simons tail-lights. By the top he was still visible, I stopped to reconnect the charger for downhill and Simon was gone. In the black liquid ooze of that night the only thing I could see was the Ay Up front lights of 2 riders coming up behind me. One of them was Andrew Bragg but I did not know him at the time.
I hurriedly connected and waited to join them, riding behind and that is when it happened!
Deja vu or an Edgar Cayce type trance, but I had seen this all before! I knew exactly what would happen next. Downward now through Tooma Dam and finally up to Corryong, I was happy, I was singing. We picked up a third rider and lost Andrew to a flat. 2 Aussie riders now behind me sensed my confidence and stuck behind.

At Corryong Kole and Simon were still unwinding.
Day 2 adds up to 316k by my instruments and 16,000 ft of climbing, somehow I had lost a water bottle and the cap to the second one.

Thanx to the Gentleman who loaned me his bottles in Corryong.
I still have them.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


"Just another nasty reminder that it's not just about Skittles and Beer"
-Aussie rider on one of the last steep hills before Melbourne.

I had heard from Rick B. who had heard from Sophie M. and I had told Kole that there was going to be a Walkabout and Dreamtime. I first confirmed that we would be sparing not spearing any encountered wallaroos and I was in. It was easy to convince Chris Rogers, Organizer of the 2009 inaugural run of the Sydney to Melbourne Alpine 1200, since we were "internationals" and not only were the Audax Australia membership fees waived, we paid for the Randonee on arrival to Sydney. In Oz they are relaxed about that sorta stuff.
Kole and I, we split up the logistics. I handled the planes, trains and youth hostels, Kole assured our near flawless navigation in a Continent Country which both of us had no prior knowledge of, through scores of email and Bike Route Toaster. When we got the route sheet only a few days before we left, Kole had the "TCX Courses" up and distributed to all the "internationals" the same day. Great! I was not in for "bonus miles" in the great Outback.

We were set! Just one problem, how to get rollers on the commuter that took us from SEA to LAX so that Kole could ride to the ride. I had choosen an 8 hour lay over in Los Angeles over a 11/2 hour one to reduce the chance of arriving without our bikes in Sydney. and with time in our hands on Thanksgiving Wednesday we greeted a Turkey that just received a Presidential Pardon.

In the hoopla we met Janet and Johnny returning home on the same flight, who gave us already a warm feeling about the Aussies.

Fairly restful slumber on the long flight, shortly after a winter 300k (Monroe-Marblemount-Monroe) I woke to this view out of the window just before landing in Sydney.

But knowing that there was no time for Sun and Surf or a drink with an umbrella in it (we left Wednesday and got there Friday). We got ourselves quickly to our Hostel and Oooh it was small for 2 men and their bikes.

Bikes built, we tried our hands at riding on the wrong side of the road and it was time to go meet Bindi who had kindly e-mailed the "internationals" and informed us about "Critical Mass".

We found her were she said she would be "hugging the fountain" in the park and we had a chance to improve our skills riding on the left on the one day that bikes are allowed to ride in the car lanes across the harbour bridge.

There were several distractions but we were getting a hang of it and thanks to Bindi and several Aussie riders we got safely back to our little hole in the wall while enjoying our first sunset in the Land Down Under.

Saturday was housekeeping and we took the train which was essentially in our backyard with our unwieldy bike boxes to Lindseys house. Super Host Lindsey! and Nice home, there was lots of beer and chips, no Skittles though. We completed our business with Audax Australia and Bindi helped with a great exchange rate (dollars). Took the train home, bed early.

Sunday early at the Opera House, almost zero hour.

For those magnificent men and women and their flying machines.

Chris Rogers reminded us that it was a social ride (indeed) and we were off, The Sydney Chapter of Audax led us in a large peloton out of Sydney and then you were on your own.

At my pace I felt quite certain that she was not referring to me.

But as we got deeper into the big open country, I admit I started to feel rather small.

Thanx Audax Australia