New Blog

February 19, 2010

I haven’t blogged here in a loooooong time, but for some reason, I don’t have the heart to delete the whole thing.

Here’s my new blog about marathon training, maybe it will appeal to the rare duathlete that happens upon this website: Rad Racer.

Roll for damage!

April 9, 2008

Ok, I have to apologize for all of the spelling and grammar errors in that last post. I’m always under a time crunch when I get to these libraries, so most of whatever’s left of my library hour after I’m done checking email is devoted to typing as fast as my sun-addled brain can recall what’s happened in the last few days. After Claire and I rode off from the library yesterday I lamented aloud my suspicion that I had typed “dessert” instead of “desert”, which was not only true, but had happened three times in succession. Absolutely shameful- even this disclaimer doesn’t excuse that kind of extreme spelling misfire.

In a small town somewhere in Arizona, a chatty young boy approached us with a series of questions about who we were and what we were up to. Completely baffled at our quest to ride from San Diego to Austin on a whim and grasping for more explanation, he ended the interrogation with “Is someone paying you?” After we rolled on down the highway, I started to entertain the fantasy that some eccentric oil tycoon in Austin was paying us a sweet bounty to super-rush something completely random across three states, kinda like that one time Nerf had to rush a crosstown teener to some businessman who needed a steaming bag of tater tots in hand within minutes, only even more extreme. On those days when I’m riding really slowly, nothing gets me into the big ring like imagining the giant bag of gold coins waiting for us in Austin once we make good on the safe transferral of all those delicious San Diego tater tots we’ve been hauling for a week. It’s weird what your mind fixates on during those long, hot days.

The Horspitality RV park was a great place to camp, provided one has a fondness for horses, good times, RV chatter, and satisfying equestrian puns. We’ve stayed in quite a few RV meccas along the route, and I feel like the extent of my knowledge about these grandiose, gas-guzzling friends of the road is at an all time high. I’ve taken every opportunity to chat up the RV’ers as much as possibly, hoping that my liasion efforts prove valuable once those same friendly travelers eventually maneuver their unwieldy motorized behemoths back onto the highway with an accompanying awareness that smiling, loving cyclists with a zest for life and all that is good in the world are also out on the road.

Phoenix wasn’t kind to us. We rode for tens of miles through nothing but suburban sprawl and big box stores before finally discovering a Trader Joe’s rising up out of the mist, like an oasis of delicious bagged snack items. Suddenly, after days of encountering the kind of grizzled one-toothed old-timers who start conversations with “Hell, if I’da known they didn’t sell beer until 10am, I’da just stayed in bed!”, we were surrounded by golf-cart driving retirees and a land of perfectly manicured rock lawns maintained by healthy, happy seniors. One jovial old chap approached me to ask earnest questions about our trip navigation, inquiring if we had brought maps with us. I showed him our cycling maps, to which he replied “No, no! I mean maps of all the TRADER JOE’S. That’s the only way you’re gonna get around to all of them!” Hmm…. there is a certain wisdom to the Greatest Generation that the modern thirty/twenty-something seems to lack.

The canal paths into Phoenix were certainly relaxing and peaceful enough, but once we reached the actual city limits, we faced one disappointment after another. All of the lesbian bars I had previously researched were all shut down and boarded up in the most depressing way possible, and the only routes around town to access them were traffic-heavy and overwhelming. When we finally located the hostel, there was a strange, ranting old man freaking out outside, upset that the building wouldn’t open until 5. We decided to buy some beer and find a park to wait in instead of sitting around and getting an earful, but unfortunately there were no parks in the vicinity and security busted us for sitting around with alcohol on private property. Time to move on and try our luck in Tempe. After a week of riding 75-85 mile days in the Arizona heat, relaxing in a Tempe motel room was just what we needed after a long day. Ack, time’s up. To be continued!

Kings of the road

April 8, 2008

Ok, obviously a lot of time has transpired since I posted that last blog, but internet scarcity is a small-town problem nearly on par with meth addiction and vegan restaurant shortage.  After leaving the San Diego limits in the early hours of morning, we made our way up the first major climb of the trip, which was jarringly within the first 40 miles of the route.  I love my new bike, and it didn’t take very long to get used to riding a non-fixed gear again, especially when the entire day was spent climbing in the little ring.  Once we reached the top of the pass, the downhill was extreme- steep grades, 40 mph sidewinds, seemingly endless bombing down winding highways with cavalcades of 18 wheelers rushing past.  We rolled into the small town of Ocotillo and hit the local bar to get out of all that crazy-bones wind, and the locals seemed to take a shine to us.  Well, really it was more like they were all drunk and we were a couple of new faces in town who hadn’t heard all of their stories yet.  They steered us towards Jackson’s Hideaway Adult RV Park in town (which wasn’t the rowdy swingers joint that the name would suggest) and all wrote their names down on a piece of paper to certify the personal referral.  A lot of random places mysteriously have “Adult” in their names out here, and we were initially baffled.  I think it might just be a euphemism for “senior”, though, because there’s no debating we’re in senior country.  We’ve received all kinds of comments and advice from spirited oldsters over the course of the last week, a lot of it frustratingly having to do with the fact that we’re crazy for touring without a man with us.  Yeah, ok.  I don’t even bother to respond to that one anymore, and I’m usually the friendliest weirdo on the road.

Jackson was a rascally old-timer and accused us of brushing our hair with hand grenades, which was probably apt.  I wish I could supplement these blog entries with photos, but after hearing comments like those, I guess it’s better for us and any potential readers here that that’s not a possibility.  After riding through the town that Claire was born in (Brawley, CA), we set out for the open desert hauling jugs of water for the stretch of limited services.  Claire said it looked like Tattoine, and I can’t think of a better descriptor.  The wind was insane, and we ended up at a USFS campground in the middle of the desert, surrounded by roaring ATV’s and an open range of sand dunes dotted by the occasional RV.  We pitched our tent behind the primitive bathroom structure for some small protection from the wind, and still woke up with an inch of sand in our tent, sand mysteriously inside all of our possessions, and sand disconcertingly in every human crevice.  Holy crap, spirits were low!  A surly old-timer in the nearest town gave me the low-down on the local ATV scene- apparently the season runs from October to March, and they’ve already had 13 deaths so far in 2008.  And people worry that bike touring is dangerous!

In Quartzsite we received a hot tip about a local book shop famous for the eccentric owner, so we had to check it out.  Again, a photograph would do my description more justice, but we arrived to find a friendly, leather-tanned, long-bearded senior wearing nothing but a crocheted nut guard as he bustled around the store organizing all the used books and collectibles.  What a nice, refreshing break from a long, boring day of grinding endlessly through the desert, desperately hunting for a roadside cactus small enough to outfit in my sunglasses and bike helmet for a photographic opportunity.  Onward to Arizona! 

In Salome, we stayed on an amazing horse ranch owned by a friend of Claire’s mom, an animal masseuse and something of a horse whisperer.  The sunset at the ranch was absolutely beautiful, the people couldn’t be more friendly and hospitable, and we were happy for the opportunity to take showers and relax around the farm.  Groups of people in town undergoing various horse clinics sat around discussing their horse-related progress, and it struck me how happy I am that so many people in this lonely world find their niche.  My library time is up in 45 seconds, but hopefully I’ll be able to update again soon!

The set-up

March 28, 2008

I officially kicked off for my four month bike tour on Saturday, happily escaping the mysterious late-March snow and sleet for the weather-proof confines of a 34 hour session with the Amtrak bus/train tag-team.  For once in my life, I actually locked in all of the necessary preparations in advance- making thousands of phone calls, getting everything in order for my touring job, arranging work and house responsibilities for a relatively long Portland absence, staging the requisite 30 going-away parties for myself, and packing up every asexual REI product I own into a box with the sweet, new ride (thanks, Ira and Dawn!)  This blatant defiance of my true irresponsible, procrastinating nature must have angered some powerful force in the universe, because just as I was checking in at the train station, the build-up of weeks of stress ready to be washed away in a mindless transit coma, the good people at Amtrak informed me that my bike box would not be allowed on the bus they were rerouting us onto since a major landslide had recently taken out the train lines.  Not to worry, however, because my bike box would instead be allowed its own whirlwind vacation in Chicago and luxury tour of half of the South and Midwest before the eventual exhausted rendezvous with me in San Diego 7 days later.  “But… I called twice,” I stammered in shock, not willing to accept that bad things happen to even the kind of people who try to line up all of their preparations ahead of time.  Unfortunately, the indifferent verdict came down from two separate Amtrak sources- the policy changed YESTERDAY.  I’m only including this entire bureaucratic fiasco in case anyone else is planning on bringing their bike along on an Amtrak journey- beware if you end up on a nonconsensual bus!  Anyway, my encroaching panic attack was wildly unneccessary, because at the last minute the collective Amtrak work force decided to throw me a bone and permit my innocent box to occupy a small portion of the ample space left over beneath the bus after everyone else’s oversized duffel bags had been securely stowed.  The ensuing delirius of relief enabled me to actually enjoy the next 15 hours spent on the same kind of cramped bus that I had initially chosen Amtrak over Greyhound to avoid.  So, anyway, to speed up this long-winded narrative and get to the actual bike tour, I met up with Claire en route, precisely as scheduled, and we eventually got to the San Diego transit station at around 2 am Monday morning. 

If Highlights magazine were interested in running a very special Goofus and Gallant segment devoted strictly to the common sense and safety of bike touring, Claire and I could have easily shared the irresponsible role of Goofus, with all of his disappointing foibles.  Am I the only one who remembers that comic strip?  I’m not going to say that it ever had any influence on my childhood behavior, but I tend to categorize many of my actions to this day on the old Goofus/Gallant spectrum.  After Claire and I laboriously put our bikes together, we set out Goofus-style from the train station at around 4am, down heavily-trafficked roads in a dark city with which we had absolutely no practical experience.  Without a map or lights, we somehow managed to fumble our way to the trailhead of the Southern Tier bike route.  Adventure, Excitement, bring on all of those things that a Jedi isn’t supposed to crave, ’cause we were 100% ready for anything!

First thing we were ready for, though- sleep.  We found a nice tree in the park to pass out under, get into our sleeping bags, and wait for the sun-up so we could set out on the road.  As anyone who’s ever witnessed me in inaction can tell you, I’m a skilled artisan when it comes to sleeping.  After years and years of diligent study at the dozing feet of masters (or just one narcoleptic dad), I’m now able to outshine even the fiercest lazy-bones competitors in a multi-round snoozeoff in a variety of categories such as length, uncomfortable location, deepness of REM, and ease of entry into state of slumber.  So when I woke up several hours later in the park with an angry policeman nudging my foot, it was no mystery that he had probably been trying to wake me up for awhile.  I’m not really sure about the nature of the exchange that followed because I was too woozy to actually focus any of my senses on anything beyond hustling back onto the loaded behemoths that we call bikes and setting out onto the gritty open road.  Which was actually a really long bike path.  Austin, TX, lock up your 20-sided dice, ’cause we’re comin’ for you!


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