Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Really Good Stuff

I totally dig this story, on so many levels.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Patty and I got away for a few days this past week. It was totally the best shit ever. My head isn't back yet and maybe not coming back ever. We rented a houseboat on Lake Roosevelt with some family and friends. It was supposed to be eight of us but two bailed, so it ended up being just six. On a boat 64' long x 15' wide with two levels. Hell, that's almost 2000 square feet. So all that space and then we had the whole damn north end of the lake to ourselves. Ruthless.

This was a getaway, including from blogging and taking pictures and all that shit. But I still managed a couple. On the very far north end of the lake there's this organic winery that you can access from the beach, albeit with a bit of a climb. Here's a shot of our boat on the lake from halfway up that trail . . .

Maybe the best part of the trip, though, was the kayaks. Oh, the kayaks. This kind . . .

Some of our "crew" brought two of them. Patty and I had tried paddling a coupla times before, but it never really clicked. This time, though, holy hell. We were in heaven on water. Especially after dark. I was out under a full or near-full moon every night. It was religious, even capsizing in the dark. Maybe especially. All baptism-like.

It's still a bike blog, but for just a little while longer, I'm living on the water. Promise to talk about brifters, brakes, bottom brackets or ball bearings real soon.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Let Me Explain.

I've been thinking for a while that I need a new bike and last weekend there was this flash of light and I knew that it was time to act.

Whoa. I don't like the look you're giving me. It reminds me exactly of Patty's. I had hoped for a little more understanding. I thought we shared the same irrational bikey enthusiasm and all. Now I see how you are. Whatever.

Thing is, I've owned this full suspension MTB for 6 years and I've hardly ridden it. This bike belongs under someone with skills, of which I have none. And I don't care what the brochure says, it climbs like a dog and rolls like taffy on pavement. It is really good hardware and someone needs to bomb some steep and rocky shit on it and I'm old and mellow and it's totally not me.

Enter craigslist. One response and one response only, which is all it takes. Bye, and happy bombing.

With cash in hand, I shopped fast and hard. A 29er hardtail was surely the ticket. You can spend a fortune on these, but with my non-agressive riding style, I don't see why I can't get by with an entry-level version, which is in the $700-800 range. I checked the LBS's to see what was happening. I ended up at REI, which gave me the best bang for the buck in terms of components and features. An $899 Novara Ponderosa 29 marked down to $763. The next day I found it on their website for $650. So I went down to the store and they credited the diff. Super bangy now, hella bike for six-fiddy.

Then I left town for a week. Without getting to ride it once. Ground the enamel right off my teeth on a coupla airplane rides. Wet dreams in some hotel rooms in strange cities. Happy ending, though, we finally got acquainted today.

This bike is supposed to be my ideal solution for mixed terrain rides - heading down Cedar and out Gov't way to play in Riverside dirt and then back through town on blacktop and hooking up with the trails on the bluff to climb back up the hill. Nothing way technical, just way fun. And today, I was lucky to be able to break it in on a ride around Loon Lake which I have come to appreciate as maybe the best mix of terrain in 10 miles that ever existed. Some of this . . .

. . . and this . . .

. . . and this . . .

. . . and this . . .

. . . and this . . .

There. See? I can tell by your look that you understand. So can you please help me explain it to my wife.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Big Burn

It's about the great fire of 1910, that destroyed over 3 million acres of forest in Washington, Idaho and Montana. I started it a while back and just finished it tonight on the last leg of this week's business trip - a flight from Minneapolis to Spokane.

The great fire started out as many (as in thousands) of smaller lightning-induced fires. Then, on August 20th, 1910, a weather system brought hurricane-force winds through, and the many small fires exploded into one humongous, baddass fire.

By accident, I finished the book one hundred years to the day after the "blowup". I closed the book, sat back in my seat, turned off the reading light, and looked out the window of the plane into the darkness below, also accidentally flying a hundred years to the day exactly over where hell on earth had raged and 85 lives had been lost and countless thousands more changed forever, and it was kinda powerful.

But the book was at least as much if not more about Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot and the creation of the National Forest System. And in this, my summer of awakening to the wonders of the Coeur d'Alene and St. Joe National Forests that are right outside our back doors, The Big Burn also added a whole new level of perception and wonder to the frame of mind I'll be carrying with me on my next trip in.

So yeah, I'd recommend the book.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I'm in downtown Montreal and it's very, very bikey here. I could bike-watch, mesmerized, for hours. The diversity seems to this visitor to be a continuum, as the range of styles and colors appears to have no beginning or end.

What is by far the most intriguing to me, though, is the monotony of the public bike system, BIXI, where every bike looks exactly the same. Sometimes the racks are full and sometimes they are empty. I won't be able to spend enough time here to make any sense of it, but there are tides of human movement that wash the waves of bikes in and out of the racks. Here's a station at high tide with all the bikes swept ashore:

I think they(?) end up hauling bikes from the lower elevation stations back up to the higher ones at the end of every day, which seems like yeah, no duh. And apparently some people check bikes out at night and take them home to the burbs and check em back in the next morning. Also apparently, you can't keep them for too long or they charge you for the price of the bike and you end up owning a heavy turd. I heard a yearly pass for unlimited use only costs 70 bucks. I heard they dimantle all the stations and pack all the bikes and kiosk-ey hardware away in the winter.

So there you have the ramblings of a bewildered, barely-informed visitor. Apparently, my employer sent me up here with the expectation that I would get some work done and not spend a bunch of time dinking around looking at bikes. I like having a job and totally agree with that viewpoint. As a result, I may never get to the bottom of this, but what a fun mystery.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Out Of Bounds Kit

I did some ski patrolling a few years ago and the term "Out Of Bounds" was part of everyday conversation. In ski-speak, anything past the official boundaries of the ski area was out of bounds. Joe skier wasn't supposed to go there, but if he did, he should expect to take care of himself. We were always rounding up the dumbasses who weren't prepared.

In cycling, there are no signs or caution tape, but I've loosely come to define 'out of bounds' as anywhere where a) you don't have cell reception, and b) human contact is scarce. Places where you might be totally on your own, in other words.

My solo trip into the CDANF this summer forced me to figure out how I think I should prepare for that situation. Mine might be a good plan or not, but at least it's a plan. There are multiple aspects, but as far as being able to keep my bike pedal-able, it all boiled down to this baggie:

It's the hardware in addition to what you would normally pack in your seat bag:
-Shift cable
-Brake cable
-Duct tape
-Cable ties, in 2 sizes
-Rubber bands (you never know)
-Brake pad
-Master link
-Cleat (do you know how screwed you would be?)
-A bottle 'o screws, nuts and washers
-Fiberfix spoke repair kit
-Super minimal first aid kit

The baggie weighs 9 ounces and having it all in one place that you can just toss in your pack is pretty cool. All in all, shit you are very, very unlikely to ever need. But also shit that, given the option of waiting several hours for a lift, might start to look pretty damn attractive. And keep you from being the latest laughingstock of your local search and rescue crew.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Due Respect

I've always blown Friday the 13th way off. I'm way too tough to buy into that superstitious krap. Until now.

If you follow this blog even a little, you will know that I bike down to the park with my dog on almost a daily basis. Today was no different. Except that it was.

We're good park citizens and we clean up after ourselves. Tonight we got there way after dark, which is not a problem in the cleanup department, 'cause I can spot my dog pinching a loaf in the moonlight, which I did tonight. I carry a headlamp and normally I eagle-eye the spot and walk towards it and never take my eyes off it til I get there.

On this one day though, I got distracted for just a minute. I still found the pile, I just found it with my foot. I don't like to be so totally out of control, but I have never been so screaming pissed in my entire life. I lost it. In the park.

Thing is, on this one particular night, I'd decided to wear my house sandals to the park. No amount of scraping your foot in the grass can get the poop out of the grooves. I'm faced with pressure-washing and all kinds of disinfection.

You can obviously see how bad things got today. I now think the terror surrounding Friday the 13th is real and justified, but you can draw your own conclusions. Just don't ask me to bail you out when things go sideways. All I can tell you for sure is that I'm now a believer and that next time around, I'll be hunkered down, with my shades drawn, living on cheese sandwiches, waiting for Saturday the 14th.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bag Sag, What A Drag

The Ostrich bag/rack combo has been okay but not perfect. The rack design isn't all that great and starting with the last CDANF trip, the bottom of the bag sagged and dragged on the front tire when it had a shitload of krap inside. Luckily, there was a leather patch on the bottom, so the tire didn't mess up the canvas.

When it happened again on the MC, I'd had enough. You just can't go through life sitting on razor's edge, hoping your handlebar bag isn't going to rub on your front tire on this particular day. I hate having to get all agressive, but when you're getting pushed around, sometimes you need to push back.

No more sag
No more drag,
Maybe I should
Tap a keg

Or hop around
On just one leg,
Maybe change my
Name to Greg

Hit a downtown
bar and brag?
Or just stay home
and fry an egg?

This should get me
off the rag,
Once again I
like my bag

Most of you already get it, but for those that are a little slow, the "ag" thing obviously totally unleashes the potential of a talented poet such as myself.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Riding the Midnight Century brings joy to your life. Just ask anyone. What may not be so readily apparent is that it extends into the days that follow. The joy, that is.

On a good night I sleep 6 hours and I wake up a buncha times. Last night I slept 13 and I only woke up once. It was at 8:30 pm on Sunday and I looked at the clock, looked at the bit of light coming through the window, decided it was 8:30 in the morning, figured out it was Monday, and determined that they were gonna havta get along without me at work. Not even calling in. Do you know how much you'd havta spend on prescription sleep aids to put you in this state of mind? And I got it for free.

When I finally did wake up, I felt great. All back to normal. That is, until I had to go down to the basement to get something. Four stairs into the climb back up, my legs started shaking, I got all woozey, and had to stop and grab the rail so I didn't pass out. It was the good kind of woozey, though.

I had trouble forming words all day. I would say the word I meant and something else would come out. Complete sentences were as rare as Texas snowstorms. Mostly they just trailed . . .

Regarding food safety: No food was safe around me.

I managed to clean my drivetrain tonight. That way I won't have to get quite as dirty while I diagnose all the funky new noises it's making.

Super fun day of just being totally spaced, watching the results roll in and take shape on John's blog, thankful that I don't have to do it again anytime soon. If you rode, I know your life has joy. If you didn't and you are longing for joy, I hope you will show up next year and load up on this crazy kind.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Midnight Century 2010 - My View

[Super Long Post Warning In Effect]

Well, it's happened again. A group of mentally unstable cyclists gathered just before midnight last night in Brown's Addition with the purpose of riding their bikes a hundred miles through hell in the wee hours. Among the faces in the group I recognized immediately were Glen Copus, Alan Jacob, Jason Gilman Tom McFadden, Justin Becker, Joe Thomsen. I didn't get an exact overall count, but it was damn close to 25. I made the same mistake I did last year which was getting there just 5 minutes before launch, which is just stupid. The pre-ride gathering is so rad - with all the anticipation and all the diverse and quirky equipment on show, it's a super-fun bike nerd hang. And none of the usual bikey pretension - if you're crazy enough to show up and throw down, you belong. I did manage to get this one picture off (all pics, as usual, are click for big) . . .

As advertised, the ride went off at exactly 11:59 pm. The combination of adrenaline and Peaceful Valley hillage were enough to immediately blow the big group to smitherenes. Here, Joe and Justin emerge from PV . . .

Here's the group I settled in with on the cruise out the Centennial Trail. L-R is Eric Ericson, Mike, Diane and Joe . . .

It was at exactly this same time that I realized I had left my kitchen sink burritos in my refrigerator. There were two of them and I had lovingly crafted them with just the right ingredients to turn me into a human rocket on a bike. I had some other shit along (dried fruit, jerky, blah, blah, blah), so it wasn't like I was gonna bonk and fall off my bike and roll down the bank or something, but oh, those burritos! I allowed myself a few moments to fall of the back of the group and weep uncontrollably.

Just before stateline, we ran into Glen and Ben. Glen, in his wisdom, was calling it a night and heading back into town. Ben in his youthful naivete, was looking for more abuse, so he joined us. That's Glen's wheel on the right. Ben's somewhere in that dark scrum on some righteous old-school hardware . . .

The 6 of us peeled off the CT and headed south on Idaho Road. That's where we had our first McFadden Pine Cone Happy Face Sighting (MPCHFS #1). There were 5 total, plus one super-fab bonus prize that I'll talk about in a minute . . .

Here's our group of six at the top of the Idaho Road climb. I think this picture rules because of the massive drama that happens on the way up Idaho Road somewhere between 2 and 3 in the morning one time every summer and the fact that everyone is standing there. On top . . .

A little about our group: Eric (L) rode for the first time last year. If you were there, you might remember him - he was riding a Surly Long Haul Trucker. Sweet bike. He had a rough night last year - some mechanicals and then went off course and got lost. He was as determined as I was to come back this year and do it better.

Ben, Mike and Diane (C) were first-timers. For firsties, Idaho Road is where the MC punches you right in the face. HARD. It was for me last year and I know it was for Glen too, because we struggled up it together, and for me, it became that one hill on the whole course that defines what gears you should be running. Neither Ben, Mike or Diane had the right equipment and yet they powered through. You guys rock.

Joe (R) last did the course before it went dirt, I think. He came prepared on his new bike and was kicking our asses up Idaho Road. I didn't ask, but I got the sense that this is the deal: I think Joe invited Mike and Diane to come out and inherent in the deal because of Joe's character was that he was gonna stick with them.

When we dropped back down into Liberty Lake and hit Molter, Ben, Mike, Diane and Joe took the out and headed back to town. I think it was the right decision, because I think there would have been a bunch of misery otherwise. I'll bet if you ask any one of them, they'd say the night was a success, just because of the experience - it's crazy unique. I know that's how I felt last year. And if it's their thing, they'll gear up and come back stronger next year. And if it's not, it's not, and that's totally cool, too.

If there's one thing that amazes me more than anything about the MC, it's how people take care of each other. Something about the middle of the night and the enormity of the task at hand bring out the best in people - whether they're friends or complete strangers. I experienced it last year and again this year. Very, very cool shit.


And then there were two.

In contrast to last year, when I physically felt like total shit at the start and then went downhill from there, I was feeling really good this year. Despite some 11-th hour mechanical krap that forced me to run 35mm tires instead of the 28's I'd planned on (which turned out to be a blessing in disguise btw), I managed to get a couple hours of sleep and woke up feeling pretty good. That feeling carried through the ride.

Eric was feeling good too, and we talked about whether we were ready to give it a shot and we were. We were both in about the same condition, we both had the same basic determination to finish and neither of us cared about how long it took. Oh, and I don't think either of us could have done it without the other. It was just too big a task for either of us individually, but as a team, we had a shot. Remember what I just said about people emerging to take care of each other? Well, I don't know if he and I will ever see each other again, maybe yes, maybe no. But for these few hours, we had a responsibility to each other. MC style.

The course is huge and the weather was pretty shitty (despite the forecast of no rain it rained on us about 3/4 of the ride), so instead of getting overwhelmed, we just dealt with it a chunk at a time. Tom helped. MPCHFS #3 . . .

Here's a shot just after turning onto Bruna road, with the light of day starting to take over . . .

Okay, here's the super-fab McFadden bonus prize I was telling you about. Tom hung this off the gate on the closed portion of Dunn road. So totally rad, so MC. There were six gone when we got there and we took seven and eight. Then, while we were standing there, Dan and Dennis rode by. They'd been up and down the road looking for the turnoff and couldn't believe it when they saw us heading around the gate. They grabbed nine and ten. Since Eric and I were bringing up the rear, that was probably the last traffic past this gate.

Dan and Dennis . . .

Eric, just after the climb up Sands. Damn, we were glad to get that last big climb out of the way.

Eric and I agreed that we oughta stop at the Harvester in Spangle and fuel-up/rest-up for the trip back. While we were eating, Dan and Dennis also rolled in. We flipped each other the mandatory shit. We were all MC brothers, after all. Dennis had a time constraint, so pretty sure those guys just booked it back to town on 195.

From Spangle on, the course was fast. Because of the rain, tire tracks were obvious and there weren't many. If 10 riders finished, we'd be quite surprised. Looked more like in the 4-6 range, besides ourselves. But who knows. MC mistique.

Eric and I hung together until Marshall crossed the FLT trail. He took the trail back to meet his kids because he's practical and well-adjusted and knows he made it. I took Marshall and followed the official course because I'm obsessive-compulsive.

This last pic is more for me than it is for you. I got a stranger to take it at the finish line. I was gonna do something way cornier, but ended up going with the lame and standard thumbs up. But it was a huge deal to finish and I wanted it recorded. Even if in all my standard corniness . . .

So that's about five times longer than any post should ever be. Whatever, I don't care. Sometimes great rides deserve long posts.

365 Days

That's how long the Midnight Century has owned me. Also how long I've been waiting, hoping, to be able to post that I own the MC.

Now I'm posting. I own it now.

9:15 Finish

9:15? Whatever. Finish? The most beautiful word in our language, and all the reason I need to start drinking before noon on the best Sunday ever.

Full report to follow, after I wake up on about Wednesday.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Midnight Century On The Brain - #4 And Final

Notes to self:

Last year you didn't finish. You had a good aventure but you know you wanna finish. You learned a lot, so use it to help you finish.

Riding a hundred hilly dirt-roady miles, at your age, in the middle of the night when your body says you should be sleeping, is not easy. You're gonna have to will it, and you're gonna pay the price for a few days. Just be real about that.

You know last year the whole deal about drinking a couple of beers in the afternoon to help make you tired so you could sleep before the ride? Are you some kind of idiot? No alchohol, bro. I don't care if you can't sleep, just lay down and look at the ceiling and chill and get your head and body relaxed and ready and keep shit out of your system.

Don't get caught up in a paceline on the CT and burn yourself out early. Let 'em go and set your own pace. It's a long night, so ride your own ride. You're totally equipped to go solo, so if you need to, do it.

Drink your water. Eat your calories. Eat your salt. Take breaks. Enjoy the excitement of the night and let it energize you. And try to have fun, you dumb bastard.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Midnight Century On The Brain - #3

Umm, lighting. This time last year I was all about a system mounted completely on my head.

I don't even know what emotion was driving this state of mind, but the whole concept seems seriously disturbing now, just a year later. Not to mention that I blinded some really good friends. The light is back on the bike, where it belongs and I have a whole 'nother spare helmet that I can use any time of day or night. And my neck isn't killing me. Sweet.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Midnight Century On The Brain - #2

Navigationally speaking, things are totally different for me this year than last. Then, I went all crazy with pre-riding all the sections of the course, sometimes twice or more. And printing out all these high-detail sections on paper and marking them up with indelible ink in case I got caught in a monsoon. I tried a GPS app for my iphone, but the complexity of the task wore me down and the power requirements wore the battery down even worse, so I tossed in the towel on that and went old school.

Now, I have a Garmin (that I bought to save me from prematurely dying in the CDANF), to which I've added the perfect complement, which is Tom McFadden's cue sheet. Do yourself a huge favor and print a copy and stick it in your pocket. Tom does "quick training laps" of the MC course after work, and will probably go sub-6 hours this year, while still finding time to stop and make pine cone smiley faces in the road to amuse everyone he's smoking.

His cue sheet is dead-nuts accurate and filled with all kinds of helpful tips. Highly useful to those who know what they're doing and essential to the dopey types that show up thinking they can just "follow the pack".

Many will label me a major dork, I know, but I'm comforted by the fact that I have no doubt where I'm going. Thanks Garmin, thanks Tom.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Midnight Century On The Brain - #1

It's pretty much all I'm thinking about, so pretty much all you get to hear about for the next week or so. All random-like, too. Lucky you.

Today I did a 60-ish mile loop from my house that picked up the back half of the route. I can barely type, let alone think. Guess it's a blessing that I couldn't make it out to do the whole course yesterday - probably would have died on the side of some stupid-ass dirt road. Damn, this is not your typical century. Pretty sure the only thing that's gonna get me through is game-day adrenaline.

This section is one of the prize features of this course. Who in the hell would ever think to ride a bike down there if someone didn't tell you to.

One of the things I wanted to find out today was if I could roll on 28mm wide tires. This is a typical part of that closed road section that I was wondering about. Went just fine.

I took a food break at the intersection of Valley Chapel and Spangle Creek. All Hallmarkey wonderous.

Until you look from the other direction. That's the (mother bitch) Spangle Creek climb in the background. What a royal joy.

Good a time as any to tell you all about my amazing hydration plan for this year: a) two regular 24 oz bottles in cages. b) dork basket on the back. c) two big bottles bungeed in the basket. d) each big bottle fills two little bottles, so 6 bottles total. e) there you have it.

I averaged 12.6 mph today. I know, pathetic. But actually I was hoping to go a bit slower. Thing is, I worked it out and if I ride at this pace, I'm gonna hit Spangle at about 5:20. That's 40 minutes before either the gas station or The Harvester open up. Either one would be a great place to crawl into, all dramatic, salty, crying, gross, begging for the mercy of small-town stangers. But not if you have to wait 40 minutes.

Cool picture of a busted tree on Cheney Spangle Rd. No bearing on anything.

This is the first place on the course you can actually get public water. It's just after you get on the Fish Lake Trail, which is only like 80 miles in, so not a problem. Just suck it up.

This is maybe the rockiest section I rode through and it wasn't all that bad, so I think I've pretty much made the decision to ride on 28's. 35's would be way more comf, but my whole focus is on actually finishing this damned nightmare of a ride at least one time before I die, and I need every little bit of help I can get.

Cafe Marron is toast. It's Italia Tratorria now and they don't wake up so early, so hard to say if/where there will be a breakfast gathering. Plus, I would get there after everyone had been sitting there for two hours and was ready to leave, so it would kinda suck.

So I'm sort of thinking, and this is all kidding aside, breakfast at The Harvester, then finish up the course and just head straight home. This wouldn't work for anyone remotely fast, but it might just work for me and any other stragglers. Greasy, country breakfast. Perfect fuel for the last leg.

What's Up With This?

So Glen's been working on a bike for this guy and the whole time the
guy's super fussy and all "when's it gonna be done, when's it gonna be

And now it's done and the guy won't even come and pick it up. Go figure.