Saturday, June 30

Ramming Speed Friday: The I-Won-Tickets-To-The-Avett-Brothers-At-Red-Rocks Edition

RAMMING SPEED FRIDAY

Shazoom! I feel bad for the abuse I put Minus through on the ride home this afternoon. It was my first day on early shift in a long while, my last commute of the week, and the commute that got me home to get ready for the Avett Brothers concert at Red Rocks.

I managed a 20.7 mph avett...er, average with a short delay even. Despite our previous stretch of days with triple digit heat, yesterday felt a bit warmer even though it was only in the 90s. Regardless, I slammed down on the pedals and rode Minus on a blazing track, a ballet of movement, a journey of speed, all the way from Golden to Arvada in a mere 27 minutes.

UNDER BLOOD RED ROCKS

My first experience with Red Rocks was the U2 video for their live performance of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" there in 1983. Of course I never imagined I would see a concert there. I didn't even know where "there" was. I guess I thought it was Arizona or Utah or Mongolia.

Mandy and I haven't been to a concert since we've been in Colorado. And we've been to quite a few. We've seen Rusted Root and Jewel, Mat Kearney and John Mayer, Howie "Drunk" Day and Barenaked Ladies, Dwight Yoakam, Alison Krauss and Union Station, two Woodsongs tapings, including one with The Wailing' Jennie's, and it seems like I'm forgetting someone.

Before we met I saw Metallica twice, ZZ Top, Van Halen, Vince Gill, Alabama, and...I'm getting old, I can't remember any more.

City and Colour opened for the Avett Brothers. They're really good. During one song a guy in the crowd proposed to his girlfriend and they filmed it and the band got involved.

Before one song the lead singer asked if we had our dancing shoes on. He pointed to the drunk guy in front of us and said: "He does. He has his dancing tank top on." we laughed. He was an obnoxious drunk we vowed not to sit near back while we were waiting in line to get in.

The whole concert delayed a bit because of rain. The rain lasted a surprisingly long time considering Colorado has been like the face of the sun for so long now. But the rain went away, the puddles dried and the weather was stellar the rest of the night. The Avetts don't do a lot of talking and they did quite a spectrum of their own songs and I don't believe they did any covers. They did amazing versions of November Blue and Ten Thousand Words. Their driving live rendition of Kick Drum Heart rivaled the energy of any Metallica performance I've ever seen. I discovered I can't put many Avett songs and song titles together, but that I know most of the lyrics anyway.

Those guys play and play hard. They throw themselves into every song like a rescue crew digging for survivors.

Speaking of...the passed around some firemen's boots and raised $20,000 for the wildfire relief. That was cool.

It was an amazing experience. For me, it may have been my favorite concert ever. I'd love to see them in a smaller venue, but seeing them at Red Rocks was pretty freakin awesome!



Thursday, June 28

Winners and Losers

A few nights ago I dreamt I won a Yuba Mundo. The troubling part of the dream was when I was trying to figure out where we could store an 11th bike (a 3rd cargo bike!) and when we would need it.

Then I saw a Facebook ad for the Yuba Boda Boda cargo cruiser. Hmmm...is there a connection?

Recently (IRL) I did win tickets to see the Avett Brothers at Red Rocks. Ever since I have been praying for rain in Morrison. The tickets only say "rain or shine," they say nothing about wildfires.

Avett tickets were free, the Boda Boda retails for $999. Not too bad either way. Of course, a truly affordable cargo bike would make me even happier. The Xtracycle still shines as an economic alternative to an integrated cargo bike.

The Boda Boda has some nice features, the most notable is its relatively light weight at 35 lbs. The Avett Bros tickets were even lighter.

I know a guy that once won a Chevette. Remember Chevettes? Winning one isn't even in the same coolness ballpark as winning a cargo bike or concert tickets. Chevettes were dumpy little cars.

Anyway, it has "cooled" down to the mid-90s. The ride in this morning was less miserable. I hope July is cooler than June has been.

Wednesday, June 27

Bike to Work Day 2012

In honor of Bike to Work Day 2012 I want to share my quick and easy advice to begin bike commuting, or to increase your frequency or comfort in bike commuting.

Tip 1: Don't let logistics scare you. Like many people, when I started regularly commuting by bike I believed I needed to carry my daily necessities daily. I soon discovered that I could drive on Monday, take all of my food and clothes for the week, and ride the other four days. I've since modified that to riding cargo bike on Mondays and either the road or mountain bike the other four days.

Tip 2: Bikepool. Stole this idea from bike to work day. Many people aren't comfortable or confident enough to strike out on their own. Form a bikepool, meet up somewhere, and ride together for moral and mechanical support. This type of arrangement will require patience and understanding regardless of whether the skill and fitness levels vary.

Tip 3: Practice run. If you're not sure you can pull it off, do a practice commute on your day off to see how feasible it is. Don't overwhelm yourself by trying to tackle a new thing on your way to work. That just adds to the stress.

So that's my quick tips for BTWD. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.


I wanted to post a short story about Bike to Work Day today. The story never materialized. Though I have recently been working on a story that would be BTWD appropriate. I just don't want to divulge the full piece just yet. So for your reading pleasure (hopefully) I am including an excerpt. The story is called "All You Haters."

I turned my coffee mug by its handle and stared at the familiar writing on the side. I stared.

"How was your ride in?" the voice jerked me from my reverie.

I spun in my chair to see Dave Holden filling the gap in my cubicle wall, blocking my escape to the
real world. My heart thumpity-thumped as my fight or flight reflexes kicked in overtime.

"Oh, hey Dave, it was good," I replied trying to sound casual. I didn't really want to talk about my
commute. Some moron had almost killed me with his rust-heap pickup on the way in.

"You know it's supposed to rain this afternoon?" It was less of a question and more of a "Haha
sucker!" kind of statement.

"I brought a rain jacket," I said turning back to my computer to hide my scowl.

"You're gonna get wet!" Dave said before leaving. He cackled as he walked away. I muttered
something ugly.

"What was that?!" Dave stuck an angry face back in my cube.

"I said 'thank you,'" I replied with a fake smile in Dave's general direction.

"Oh..." Dave replied, and then was gone.


My lovely wife rode to Golden with me this morning despite the early heat. Being a school teacher she is always off work when BTWD rolls around each year. It was good to share it with her.


Monday, June 25

Might as Well Be Biking on the Sun

I checked the temperature in Golden before I jumped out of the air conditioning into the fire at 5:30 this afternoon.

104ยบF
4% humidity

By the time I reached home the moisture content of my body was about 4%. 

Thankfully it was partly cloudy and the sun itself was not baking me directly.

Unthankfully there was a blistering headwind off of the eastern plains. Between the fire wind and the air so dry is sucked the moisture out of my very veins I felt like my skin was just going to crumble into dust and waft away.

The forecast for tomorrow? 2 gazillion degrees.

The upside of tomorrow is that I get to go pick up the tickets my wife won for me for the Avett Brothers concert at Red Rocks this coming Friday. 

Bike to Work Day is Wednesday. Like I said not too long ago, the novelty has worn off. I bike to work every day. And yes, people have been asking if I'm going to ride on the big day. I want to smack them.

I just had an idea...

Sunday, June 24

Vedauwoo

I've mellowed over the past decade. So says my wife, and I must agree with her.

There's a place in Wyoming's Medicine Bow National Forest called Vedauwoo. The name is a native word, or an anglicized version of a native word, that means "earth born." The modern word is pronounced (by most) vee-da-voo. I've also heard it pronounced vay-da-voo. Tomayto--tomahto.



The area is the climbing community's version of a cult classic. It's known for its plethora of wide cracks known as off widths, that for the average climber confound and defeat their efforts to ascend due to a lack of adequate technique.

There are many high quality climbs in Vedauwoo that do not follow wide cracks, but the sometimes negative stereotype persists.



I started climbing in 1994 and my earliest mentor, a well traveled guy named Tim from Western Kentucky, spoke often of Vedauwoo. His stories, along with photos and articles from climbing magazines awoke a desire in me to visit the place myself.

From where I lived in Kentucky it was a 24 hour drive to Vedauwoo. So there were few opportunities for me to visit. Mandy and I actually planned to stop there on our Western road trip honeymoon. But due to reported wildfires and mudslides in Colorado that summer we opted for a rainy road trip through Appalachia.

When we moved to Colorado Vedauwoo was floating in the back of my mind even though I had basically retired from climbing. I couldn't help but be aware that it was less than two hours from my new home...an easy day trip. But I didn't want to go there and attempt climbing from a couch-jockey state of fitness.

Two summers ago we'd been climbing enough that I felt like a trip to Vedauwoo wouldn't be wasted with vain efforts. I managed to climb there twice in 2010 and fell in love with the place all over again.



In looking into places to take the kids mountain biking Vedauwoo came up again, and we decided we'd take the kids camping and biking there this past weekend. Since all of the West is on fire, and the temps were supposed to be in the triple digits, Vedauwoo was a natural choice, as it is an interstate drive all the way and it sits at 8,000'.

First, we had to traverse the smoke zone. We drove through 8-9 miles of thick brown smoke east of Ft Collins. It was surreal.



Vedauwoo was hot, but maybe ten degrees cooler than Denver ended up being. We could see the smoke from the fire from the day use area.

The campground has been denuded of shade giving beetle killed trees, and the hot wind was blasting through the campground. We decided not to unpack.

Striking out with our party of six we went counter-clockwise along the Turtle Rock Trail. We explored a little maze of dolmen formations and did a little bare rock riding.



Once on the trail proper we started to lose a lot of elevation. It was somewhat worrisome to me, because I knew we'd somehow have to elevate four kids back to the level of the campground under the harsh sun .

We'd followed a rocky, tree shaded creek that surprisingly reminded me of the East. Then we came out of the trees and were rewarded with a surreal and sublimely beautiful vista.



The Middle Crow Creek drainage possesses a simple, sudden beauty. I can't really describe it, and the photos I took from the bike saddle do not do it justice.

We had a blast on the "dips" as the kids called them. There was a long section of two track that were mostly level and crossed a broad grassy meadow.



The first mile was the most enjoyable. Then we spent four miles regaining all that elevation. Finally, near the end, I left everyone in the shade and went to get the car.

The heat, the wind, and a long hard day left us with the conclusion that a retreat home would be the best thing for everyone. And so we beat feet south.

At home we discovered that at least five new wildfires had bloomed across the Colorado landscape and that temperature records had been broken all over.

Despite the effort, and some demon wrasslin' in my head, we had a good day.

I'm thankful we now do have the opportunity to go to Vedauwoo on a day trip. I'm more content these days to go and just enjoy being outside and seeing such an amazing place, where years ago I would have been stressed just because we left earlier than planned.

I miss the "care-free" days of being a climbing bum with little ambition beyond the next climbing trip, but I've made my choices in life and have no regrets.

My family is the most important thing in my life. I want to share with them the things I love in life. But at the same time their welfare and enjoyment is more important to me than my ambitions of climbing of cycling glory. I was pleasantly (no really!) reminded of that yesterday in the blast furnace heat and blistering sun of Wyoming.

Friday, June 22

Friday Propaganda: Grinding Daydreams

I actually wrote this piece a week or so ago. I've debated whether or not to post it, but when I go back and read through it I find I am compelled to share. So for better or for worse: 


They say you can feel the ghost of a severed limb or digit; that you'll try to scratch an itch that can't possibly exist. I feel that way sometimes with my lost time. I spend too many days staring at the offensively boring patterns on the side of my cubicle. I mourn the time lost that I feel I could put to better use if only someone would forget to lock my cell door one day.

No matter how busy we get at the office I can crank through my workload in no time flat and have so many dead hours of wishing I was somewhere else. During those onerous, bleak hours my body feels the resistance of pedals on some fantasy bike tour, the pull of gravity as I hike some daydream peak, the rush of a ghostly wind and the feel of a sun on my skin that must exist somewhere.

The sounds of nature I hear in my cell are the clickety-clack of keyboard keys, the mind-addling ring of phones, the blat of one particularly loud co-worker and the constant Taos hum of the HVAC. Sometimes I even get to listen to the call of the wild irate citizen over the cubicle walls. If I'm lucky, I can even feel the spittle flying from their lips on my face.

There are days I long to hear the fire alarm. But I digress.

So I sneak and read Ken Kifer. I click through Yehuda Moon strips. I compulsively check my blog feed. And I daydream about being someone who is not confined to a cubicle cell for making the wrong decisions earlier in life (perhaps even the very same day) and that someone is unfettered by this lifestyle simply characterized as the American Dream. The irony, huh? It's mostly still just a daydream.

There's too much world out there to be experienced for me to be content sitting in a box.

And so, like in my previous post, I steal bread from the mouth of decadence. Because of our extractive/exploitative economy I have the luxury of empty time. I don't have to work in the mud and dirt from before daylight until well after dark just to have food on my table. Conversely, the wealth of extraction and technology does not afford me the common sense freedom to manage my time as I see fit, and as works best for me and my needs, but instead, shackles me to a contrived schedule that prohibits the freedom of time for ample self-improvement.

I sneak and take time for myself where I can. I do it with guilt splashed on my heart, but a quiet, passive-aggressive rebellion driving my actions.

We tout this grand experiment of democracy and capitalism as being tantamount to—and the epitome of—civilization, but how many of us benefit from the fruits of our labors on a level commiserate with our worth as human beings? Civility is often a facade over something much less than civilization. And if humanity is so advanced, then why is there such a great disparity between the rich and poor of the world? Do we really believe that the poor are in such a state because they don't work hard enough, or are somehow more undeserving than the rest of us? Do we really believe that the rich are so noble and just and hard working that they somehow have earned more of the stored wealth of energy that was produced in the creation of the world than the rest of us? Or was it just because they got to it first?

My leftist articulations are actually far less about the environment or the economy, and focused more on social justice issues when I really start picking at the threads. Again (and again and again and again), I do not consider myself as being aligned with the Left or the Right, nor anywhere along the scale. I am truly apolitical in my personal ideology and philosophy.

I look to common sense to help me make decisions on who to vote for. When I was younger I voted rarely, and when I did I tended to vote to the Right. Then I stopped voting, but soon after was shamed back into participating in the sham of voting for the lesser of evils. Now I hardly have the stomach for making a choice.

My concern about social justice has little to do with racism, sexual orientation, illegal immigration, abortion, or other hot button issues. I really believe that the average global citizen is getting the shaft on an hourly basis, and, that until we do something to guarantee equal human rights for all the world, the more superficial issues are going to continue to divide us and keep us from crafting a world in which our heirs can live in true freedom and security.

Paint me how you will as I say this, but I think FDR's "second bill of rights" is key to our survival as a civil species. I will say, I would interpret and quantify much of what FDR said in his 1944 state of the union address in my own way, but I think the spirit holds true, and I think if we had listened to FDR in 1944 that some of the ails of the last half decade would not have been so dire or destructive.

You can call me "socialist." If you do then you are of a lazy mind, and most likely can be found crouching in fear hard to the Right and pointing fingers our of your dank, dark corner. I am not a practitioner or proponent of socialism. And so what if I were?

I quote Ferris Bueller: "Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism's in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, 'I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.' Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I'd still have to bum rides off people."

When I first saw that movie I still had to bum rides off people. I was young, but Ferris' opinion that -isms are not good has nestled itself in my mind all these years, and I still agree with Mr. Bueller...Bueller...Bueller.

I'm not a lazy person. But I am opposed to wasting my life energy on pretend work, contrived schedules, timetables, procedures and policies that do little to build up and much to bog down. It's not work that's the problem, but wasted energy. We waste so much of our lives being placeholders in a contrived economic pattern. If I show up for at least 40 hours to a mute-colored cubicle then I receive a certain number of numbers in a computer which I can reallocate to keep my electricity, water, internet and data plan going. But I did nothing directly to produce electricity, water, "internet" or "data." My food comes from the supermarket. I also exchange some numbers with that institution so my belly doesn't hurt. What do I really understand about the energy that goes into maintaining my own existence and where my share of the energy goes once I expend it?

Do we feel the severed limbs of cultural identity, self-worth, and self-sufficiency maddening us? FDR's vision was never realized. Is there an itch there that every new generation tries to scratch at? Is that, perhaps, what the Occupy movement is all about?

In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, author Barbara Kingsolver remarks about being named as one of the 100 people who are screwing up America by Bernard Goldberg. On the website Philosophistry the reason is given as: "In an op-ed she re-tells how she reluctantly let her daughter wear red-white-and-blue after 9/11 because, 'the American flag stands for intimidation, censorship, violence, bigotry, sexism, homophobia . . . Who are we calling terrorists here?'" (I refuse to pay money for Goldberg's book for the sheer mean-spiritedness of the content)

I must confess, my own feelings after 9/11 went from a shocking burst of patriotism to a strong opposition to our country's reaction when I saw the news story where a soldier leaving for Iraq (at the beginning of the Second Gulf War) told his young son: "I'm going to go kill the man (Saddam Hussein) that blew up the World Trade Center."

I realized in that horribly confused and mixed up exchange that those in power in America are in thrall to the mindless entity of capitalism, and that American foreign policy is no more noble or altruistic than was the empire-building crusades of humanity's past.

Capitalism evolves into empire-building, and the only thing that endeavor accomplishes is the concentration of wealth and power into the reach of a few at the expense and loss of life energy of the masses. There is no true equity in capitalism. It is a dog-eat-dog philosophy that encourages supporters to lie and deceive others about its nature to convince its victims to go willingly to slaughter.

This must stop.

A childhood friend, and brother in faith, made the claim once that only through capitalism and Christianity can our country be saved. What astounded me by that affirmation was that even the most diehard atheist can quickly point out the clear and straightforward contradictions in my friend's statement. But why can't well-intentioned, intelligent, observant Christians do the same?

If my confession that I am a Christian rankles you, then perhaps you are cowering in a similar dank and dark corner as the Rightist pointing fingers back across the cracked dungeon floor of American politics. So what if I am a Christian? Throw out your stereotypes and help to start spanning the great chasm we've opened up in our national discourse. I don't have to sacrifice my beliefs on the altar of freedom and neither do you.

Freedom is, perhaps, one of those phantom limbs that keep itching us. We just know it's there, but when we reach to feel it there is a void that we can't explain. And like the recent amputee, we go through denial. No, my arm must still be there, I feel it! But it's gone, you see? NO! It can't be!

Another phantom limb of our itching carcass is nobility. Where are the men and women of honor in positions of authority? Why can't politicians strive first to be noble, honest, self-less in service of their constituents. Why must they lie, muckrake, and root about in the immoral mud of their corrupted mini-cultures? But they dress so fancy. They speak so eloquently. They're educated. They run big businesses and do so much in the name of human rights. You can't get into those positions without keeping a high level of dignity and incorruptibility. Right?

When I was younger and less articulate in my understanding of the workings of the world I often thought that in the United States there persists a great European mindset, and that beneath that thick veneer of White influence lay the tattered remnants of the Native American cultures. In my early twenties I discovered that I am part Cherokee, a mere 1/64th, but still able to trace my blood back to that lone full-blood Cherokee in my family tree with the anglicized moniker of Margaret Parsons.

At the time I desperately wanted to renounce my whiteness, but to be honest, it would take a lot of tanning lotion to erase the dilution of my European DNA. A lot. In time I learned that romanticizing the noble savage does little to dignify the legacy of those people. To claim their suffering as my own is almost as great a travesty as the destruction of their culture by my European ancestors.

Around the same time I discovered that one sliver of my genetic heritage I also read an article about a blue-eyed, fair skinned contractor who obtained $19 million in minority-favored subcontracts based on his being 1/64thCherokee.I've never seen a photo of the man, but I see myself often enough in the mirror. 1/64thof anything is hardly enough to bestow any kind of distinguishing physical attributes, much less any kind of minority need

And so began the savaging of the noble romantic. I vowed I would never exploit my own mutt-ish heritage and ceased all forward motion in researching my own path to membership in the Cherokee nation. I would not be another European taking advantage of a native culture. The remaining 63/64ths of my genetic makeup is almost entirely European, from Scottish to French to who knows what else.

I won't romanticize the Native American communities that persist (despite the attempted genocide that framed the entrance of European influences into the Americas) and thereby in-dignify how they identify themselves today. It's not my place to try and paint a picture of how they see themselves and how they envision themselves into the future.

The average American pursuing the American Dream scratches at the itch of cultural identity. NASCAR does not count as culture, and McDonald's is not cuisine. We are a culture of assimilation and dilution.

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Give them to us, and we will make them just like us. We will make them twofold more the children of hellthan ourselves.

I find it laughable that one of the huge points of contention between our political poles is that of immigration. What are we but a nation descended from exploitative immigrants that attempted to (and in some respects succeeded) commit genocide on the natives of this continent?

There is only one question left to ask. In the absence of nobility, reason, compassion, community, realistic social expectations...who will scratch the itch of lost souls?

Tuesday, June 19

Blast Furnace

Ah, the middle of June! A coworker commented yesterday morning that it looked like the heat was going to go on forever. I commented that that was a simplified definition of hell.

Yesterday and the day before were both record highs. It was somewhere in the 90s Sunday and Denver hit 100F yesterday.

Yesterday I rode in through air heated to the low 70s. That felt good. But the ride home...well, it was hot, but it was a dry heat.

When I left on the MTB this morning it was cool on my street. In fact, it was a nice ride all the way into Applewood. But then when I left the tree lined streets for the exposed trail through the scrub prairie on the eastern flank of STable Mountain (it ain't goin' nowhere) it was like someone turned the knob to "broil."

As I began crawling toward the summit of the mesa I felt a serious lag in energy. I've lost something. My dietary faux paux last Wednesday and subsequent overtraining ride to the summit of Bergen Peak has just sapped my will to win.

I can't afford this kind of training mistake. I need to be climbing significantly on longer rides. Bergen isn't even a boil on the butt of Leadville.

No, I'm not in over my head. Shut up!

Something that became painfully apparent as I fought my way to the summit of Bergen last week was the fact that I typically neglect my upper body when conditioning for cycling. The same is true now.

I have 52 days to get into the best shape of my life. It will be a baptism by fire, as summer waxes full. But at least it's a dry heat.

Sunday, June 17

Searching for Biketopia: Valmont Bike Park

Despite 95F temps across the Front Range today, the temperature and humidity combined didn't equal even 100.

Most of the family wanted to laze by the pool, but two of us, myself and my nephew Ty, wanted to ride our bikes. He'd been asking to go to the pump track at the Golden Bike Park for a week or so, but an idea his me...

Valmont.

I'd never been to Valmont Bike Park in Boulder. I'd heard all kinds of good things about it, and had debated going for awhile. Well, ever since it opened.



We loaded up only two bikes and drove up to Boulder. We parked at the lot off of Valmont and there was only one other car. Score!

It was hot, and the fire within us was stoked. We pedaled away from the car a little too fast.

Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say Ty had the time of his life. He ran lap after lap on the lower pump track, and then when we discovered the upper pump track his grin spread so wide I thought the top of his head was going to fall off.

I don't know how many runs we did down the terrain park, until Ty face planted into the rail fence at the bottom. Then we climbed back up for a few more circuits on the upper pump.

We did two runs down Mesa Flow/Corkscrew. Then we did a few more laps on Hot Lap/Dirt 101.

Finally, as we approached the car we couldn't help but race around The Glades with stupid grins on our faces.

We stove off the demon heat with a bike-powered wind in our faces. It was a grand day.

Today was just a scouting trip. We're taking the rest of the tribe real soon.

What is truly nice about a bike park...versus trails in a national forest or open space setting, is that most of the trails are one way, they are "bike only," they are designed just for bikes, and they are really freakin' fun! It really felt like an afternoon in Biketopia.

Some of the amenities at the bike park


Roaming About Buffalo Creek

The best part of the day was when all four kids said they had a good time. My niece and nephew are in visiting for the month of June. After much deliberation this morning we decided we'd haul all the bikes on our little mule Gump over the foothills to Buffalo Creek to maybe catch a glimpse of some HUNDOers and to ride our own bikes.

We got over there too late for the race. We only saw a couple cyclists late in the day as we were headed home ourselves.

As we left Arvada the skies to the west were angry and heavy with the promise of thunder and rain. It looked like we might skirt the worst of it by heading south, so we continued on.

We finally turned off the blacktop south of the community of Buffalo Creek. As we neared the trailhead the skies looked more and more ominous. Heavy drops of rain pounded the dry forest floor. 


Miller Gulch Trailhead was mostly vacant. We waited through a moderate rain. The air was much cooler and as I finally unloaded the bikes, hoping the kids could at least ride around the trailhead before the skies really unleashed their fury, but to the west they were lightening.

Mandy and I discussed the situation. And then we hatched a plan. Further north on Eos Mill Road was the Buck Gulch Trailhead, closer to the road down to Crossons, a ghost town, which was a side trip we wanted to make with the kids. Instead of riding the entire way, we decided Mandy would run SAG in Gump and follow me and the kids on the bikes. From Buck Gulch TH we would ride down to Crossons and then back.


So off we went. The older kids took off and Lily lagged a bit. I kept pace with the boys as we bombed down Eos Mill Road. We were going far too fast for the loose road surface and tight curves. But we went on and on and on.

A pause to let everyone catch up, and a great view of our dream house and Redskin Mountain. Alison came pedaling up and the SAG team, now including Lily followed in Gump. We could see the pink flame helmet poking out the shotgun window.


By then we had blues skies overhead, with an angry wall of dark purple to the east. The storm had passed us by.

After a quick regroup we continued on, bombing down another run. Alison and I flew on ahead. I kept glancing back to check on Boone and Ty. Then Ty went down.

Ali and I stopped at the top of the next hill. She called back and asked if he was okay and he called back that he was. Boone came on toward Alison and I.

After a few minutes we realized Ty was walking his bike and limping. I jogged back to see how he was. Not so good.

When I got to him his handlebars were cocked sidways, his chain was off, and his leg was bleeding.

The SAG wagon pulled up and we all rallied to get Ty fixed up, his bike untangled, and then we were back on our way.


Just past Buck Gulch TH we parked Gump and Mandy and Lily joined us for the long descent to Crossons.

We descended into the old wildfire scar of the Hi Meadows Fire from 2000. Even Lily did good riding down the old road. When the road got too steep we stashed the bikes and walked. It wasn't much further before we reached a gate and a "private property" sign. After another round of deliberations we opted not to trespass, as that would have been a bad example for the kiddos.

So then began the long climb out. But it went much easier than we all had thought. Again the skies turned angry and threatening. We made steady progress back to the car, but the rain that threatened stayed to the north and never hit us.

The best part was that we returned to the car and everyone was still in good spirits, still happy and all of us had a great time.


Despite the threat of ugly weather, a seemingly gruelling side trip, and a long cramped car ride we had a fantastic day roaming about Buffalo Creek. Can't wait until we go back.

Friday, June 15

Ramming Speed Friday: Almost Getting Rammed

It was a moto-fascist kinda day.

Cell phone talkers, buzzers, crazy old men in mini-vans almost running over me...

I pulled off a veritable Ramming Speed Friday, but only because I gave chase after the deadly weapon I was almost assaulted with ran away.

I was approaching a stop sign and took the lane. An old man with his wife and some young kids, presumably his grandkids, came within inches of me and Minus. I started smacking the side of the can screaming:" THREE FEET! THREE FEET! THREE FEET!!!" He came closer, then began to make his rolling stop/right turn across me. I slammed to a stop just in front of him, looking back into his windshield, still screaming about yardsticks. He never even glanced at me. Then he turned right in front of me, again, almost clipping me, and continued down the frontage road toward Kipling.

Heart pounding, blood raging, I jammed down on the pedals and gave a weak chase. He left me in his geriatric dust. I believed him gone out of my wretched commuting life.

And then when I reached light at Kipling there he sat. The light turned green and he went straight. The same direction I was headed. Up and down the pedals spun in a blur. I stood up on the pedals, ignored the burning in my lungs, blew through the vacant stop sign at Independence and caught Grampa at Garrison. As he prepared to turn left I screamed at his open window: "Hey! HEY! HEY!!!" He didn't stop.

I was determined I was going to give him a piece of my mind. If he'd almost killed me intentionally I was going to report him to the aggressive driver hotline. If he had been completely oblivious through the whole debacle I was going to suggest he should not get back behind the wheel.

Garrison climbs up to Ridge. I lost him again as he sped away into my neighborhood. I rocketed up the hill, across the tracks and up to Ridge. I glanced east and west. No minivan. Wait! Maybe I saw him turned far off the the east. I took off. I roamed the neighborhood for a few minutes looking for a green minivan. No luck! I'd just lost him by a few seconds.

Okay, so maybe I overreacted. It was just one of those days. First it was the redneck in the rusty Ford that tried to pass me going into the round-a-bout. Then on the way home I had to dodge so much stupid driving it just wasn't funny. The old man was the cherry on top. I snapped. Getting close enough to a moving vehicle that I could reach out and touch it kinda sets me off. It's kinda my weakness.

But anyway, I pulled off a RSF, if only because I was in a red road rage.

The Moto-Fascist Review: Round-n-Round

At some point in the history of the world someone decided what Golden, Colorado really needed were round-a-bouts. A lot of them.

Whomever that person was (may they twitch in their grave) didn't bother to administer any skills tests to the citizens of Golden to determine if they could pull off driving through them.

Recently, due to federal pressure, the County approved the Moss Street extension into NREL (for really poor reasons) and put in yet another round-a-bout. During construction my ire was up because they were constructing narrow lanes with no bike facility.

After construction was complete I was somewhat happy to discover they had installed a "Bikes May Use Full Lane" sign. Not quite going the extra mile, it was better than nothing.

This very morning I decided I would brave the late(r) morning traffic and take South Golden Road in to work.

As I approached the new round-a-bout I let two cars pass before getting over into a distinct gap in traffic. When the lane narrowed and became constricted by curbs I was in the middle of said lane.

Then I heard the sickly chatter of a V-8 hitting on a fraction of its total number of cylinders immediately behind me. I glanced back to discover...well, all I could see was grill and hood a few inches behind me. And they were getting closer.

I looked up at the driver and began yelling and gesturing in an attempt to get him to back off, and all the while he kept trying to squeeze into the bike-wide space beside me.

Then I had to give my attention back to the impending round-a-bout. I pedaled on through still taking the lane. My heart was pounding, but not in fear. I. Was. Mad.

As we approached the open road again Mr Impatient revved his engine menacingly. I didn't get over to the right until there was ample room for him to pass, which he did with plenty of space for me, but he also flipped me off.

I hoped he would pull into some parking lot ahead so I could yell at him, but alas, he continued on through the obstacle course of round-a-bouts along South Golden Road.

A couple of points:

First, if you're going to take the lane...Take The Lane! Staying to the right of the drive lane invites motorists to pass. Sometimes it's not safe for motorists to pass, and at those times cyclists should not be inviting them to do so. By taking the lane you are saying to following motorists: "I have made the judgment call that it's not safe for you to pass me, please be patient."

Many motorists understand this. Some won't. Those that don't will see it as an attack on their very American freedoms and entitlements. Let them believe what they will, but don't invite them to pass until its safe to do so.

Secondly, as a cyclist, and therefore more vulnerable user, you must take and maintain control of constrictive or congested situations. If I had panicked and jerked to the right Mr Impatient would have tried to gun past me. There was absolutely not enough room for him to pass me between the curbs. Once I was committed to the lane I had to maintain my place.

It's sad that in a civilized society some groups are marginalized to the point of being shoved aside with no regard for their health or safety.

The problem is that roads are an uncivilized element of society. The common misperception is that the car is king, but while roads have existed since the beginning of time, cars are late comers, and detrimental to the civility that should exist on the roads.

The window of time that will be characterized by the domination of the automobile culture is going to be brief in history. You won't convince me otherwise.

My hope is that with the fading of the automobile will come some rational civility to fill the gaping hole that will be left.

I was going to craft a piece on MUT etiquette today, but that was before my moto-fascist encounter.

Wednesday, June 13

The First Step...

...is admitting you have a problem.

An odd thing happened recently. I returned to the Bikeport from my cubicle release program. I parked the Cannonball outside and went in the house.  Mandy was getting ready to go to the store so I offered to tag along (we get more junk food when I do). So we headed back out, walked past the CBX and the shed where Kona Lisa was stabled and both of us got into the car without any vocal coordination.

It wasn't until we'd been in the store five minutes or so that Mandy said: "We drove!"

For whatever reason neither of us considered riding. I had even moved the CBX out of the entry area in front of the door before we left.

That's so unlike both of us. We try and always choose the bikes, especially when going to the store which is less than a mile away, and that time it didn't even cross our minds.

It's like I wrote awhile back: the novelty of being a car-lite family and of being committed to choosing the bike first has faded. In a sense it has become second nature. But the second nature of the car must be much more deeply ingrained.

Maybe we haven't really programmed our minds to default to the bike completely. This isn't the first time it's happened to me. I know of a few other times I've been sticking the key in the ignition before I realized what I was doing.

This is not something to fall on our swords over. It just happens. It was very interesting to me though, because sometimes if there is a palpable reason I will choose the car. But this one time there was no reason not to ride the bikes and we just didn't consider it at all.

After we'd gaped at each other about our gaffe we read some labels, bemoaned the inclusion of high fructose corn syrup in everything, and finally we were faced with a decision: do we buy the all organic cereal with some hydrogenated oil or the non-organic cereal made with 100% wind power?

Solution? We buy both and mix them together.


Tuesday, June 12

Bicycle Permaculture

Permaculture has been around for quite awhile. Originally it was "permanent agriculture," a movement to mimic nature in agriculture, the antithesis of industrial agriculture.

The movement evolved to a more general concept of "permanent culture," the idea of taking responsibility for yourself, your family, your community and beyond. The movement was still focused on food production, because lets face it, food is what it's all about. Without the continuous need to feed ourselves there would be little reason to organize into social frameworks.

Pondering these things I began to see how bicycling fit into the overall picture of permaculture and the Transition movement. choosing the bicycle over petroleum powered vehicles is a way of taking responsibility for your own mobility needs, the impacts of your needs to your community, and reducing dependence on a system that is beyond individual, familial or communal control.

Since permaculture is really about designing systems it seems to me that bike/ped planning could become a relevant component of permaculture. Transportation binds our communities together within and to other communities without. Trade is fundamentally based on transportation. Even local trade is about moving goods from one place to another.

How do we mimic natural systems on a bicycle? In one sense, the bicycle enhances the mobility of bipedal beings without overstepping the natural balance of the local ecosystem. That's not to say bicycles have no environmental impacts, but the scale of bike use is much, much less than that of motor vehicles and even draft animals. Clearly, the widespread use of bicycles would be far less impactive than our current transportation paradigm.

Bicycles don't wear down travel surfaces as fast as motor vehicles or animal-drawn conveyances. They are slower, take up less physical space, and keep things at an individual human scale. With less weight and area, bikes free up more space on existing travelways and they just don't degrade the surfaces like other vehicles. Direct communication between other travelers is more facile, and I believe, therefore, cuts down on road-rage issues when the travelers are all cyclists. Rudeness can be called out instantaneously. There is no anonymity on a bicycle. But that is a good thing for community building.

The required infrastructure for bikes alone can be very minimal, with significantly reduced construction and maintenance costs, and much less intrusive to the built environment and to nature than the current scale of modern transportation infrastructure.

Good bicycle infrastructure design would take advantage of the existing landforms and not drastically change the face of the earth. Cycle paths can take advantage of otherwise difficult to use topographies. Floodplains make fantastic corridors for multi-use trails through existing communities. Bike facilities can take advantage of very narrow corridors and locations that would be far to restrictive for other modes of transportation.

Being the most efficient mode of transportation ever conceived of by the mind of man, bicycling can become a value which can make human culture sustainable. The act of bicycling is an extension of the sustainable capture and release of energy. It is an element of transportation that helps us save energy and resources. It can even be an element to produce energy if we let it.

Bicycling is a neutral resource. The use of the bike leaves the bike unaffected energetically speaking. There is the same amount of energy in a bicycle before and after a ride.

Embracing the bicycle helps us refocus on community and our local culture and economy. It is a small, slow solution to many of our individual and cultural problems. The bicycle, to quote cellist Ben Sollee, is a beautiful limitation. It allows us to beautifully and elegantly self-regulate while accepting feedback.

To me it's seems that to truly embrace permaculture, you can't ignore the bicycle as a crucial transportation component. And while I know that many would begin to argue about the perceived limitations of the bicycle, let me remind you that the idea that every adult individual in the country should have instantaneous access to an SUV at all times is relatively new in the history of the world. Such freedom of mobility, with the capability to haul large amounts of weight, is not he historical norm for the average human being.

I could focus on many of the various different aspects of permaculture, but in closing I just want to illuminate the basic ethics of permaculture. These three ethics are central to permaculture: care for the earth, care for people and fair share.

They are very similar to the three pillars of sustainability: people, planet, profits. Except if you'll notice, profit has been replaced with a second people. But then again, fair share really is about a balance of abundance and an equitable distribution of resources in moderation.

Ack! I know, I sound like a socialist. I'm not.And so what if I were?

By choosing a bicycle for your transportation and mobility needs you are caring for the earth, caring for the people around you, and creating a wealth of abundance by limiting your own consumption of resources. Utility cycling truly does fit within the aims of permaculture and can be incorporated into permaculture design. More on that down the road...

This is an idea I want to develop. I'll try to address it with more clarity in the next installment.


Sunday, June 10

High Park Fire

The forecasted temperature yesterday for the metro area was in the high nineties. It actually got up to 104F in Lamar. Mandy and I decided to take the four kids (two are niece and nephew) to a higher elevation to escape the heat.

After some pondering I decided we'd go to Lily Lake and the Jurassic Park climbing area for some rope time. Lily Lake is just south of Estes Park along the Peak-to-Peak Highway, just northeast of Longs Peak.

As we headed northwest, first from Arvada to Boulder and then beyond, we saw a plume of smoke up north west of Fort Collins. I pointed it out and said it must be the Stuart Hole Fire. Last I'd heard that one had been 200+ acres and mostly contained. I guessed it had flared back up.

Descending into Estes Park after the long slog up the canyon we could see the plume closeup. The kids said it looked like a nuclear explosion, a volcano erupting and an asteroid hit.

High Park Fire from south of Estes Park

We squeezed into a parking spot along the Peak-to-Peak across from Lily Lake and we had an amazing view of the plume dominating the sky to the north. Our hike and climbing foray went well, and a few hours later we returned to the car to the same view of the smoke. If anything it had grown.

 June 9, 2012 about 6pm, along the Peak-to-Peak

Back in the plains the haze was thickening. We could see the plume all the way out to I-25 and far south.

Back at the Bikeport we flipped on the news only to discover that what we'd been seeing was a new fire, the High Park, discovered early yesterday morning and through the day had grown to 5,000 acres and had destroyed 10 structures. The news footage was stunning.

By the time we went to bed the reports were of 8,000 acres consumed and this morning the estimate had grown to 12,000 to 14,000 acres (in the same Denver Post article, later corrected to 14,000). The fire is sweeping through stands of beetle-kill, and that factor, combined with high temperatures yesterday, low humidity and high winds has caused this mind-boggling flareup.

I did some research on the 2012 wildfire season and was shocked to discover some really big fires still burning in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and now this huge fire up north.

This is nuts. Unless we get a massively significant amount of rain the situation is only going to get worse.

UPDATE:

As of 5pm June 11, 2012 the High Park Fire has burned 37,000 acres, destroyed approximately 100 structures and is still 0% contained. 

5:00 pm 6/12/12 - 43,000+ acres, 5% containment 

Midday 6/13/12 - 46,600 acres, 10% containment 

Late 6/14/12 - 52,000 acres, 15% containment 1,300 personnel 

6/15/12 - Still 52,000+ acres, 100+ structures (nearly 50 homes) reported destroyed. The area burning is south of the Poudre River and immediately west of Horsetooth Reservoir. The long term effects of this fire will include heavy sedimentation in the watersheds west of Fort Collins.10pm: 54,000+ acres, 20% containment, 112+ homes destroyed, 1,500 personnel active

6/17/12 - 55,000+ acres, 45% containment, has now exceeded the Fourmile Fire as the most destructive (number of homes destroyed) in Colorado history with 181 homes so far. To date it has cost more than $9 million to fight with over 1,600 personnel fighting the fire. 

6/18/12 -  Nearly 59,000 acres, 50% contained, 1,700+ personnel, 189 homes destroyed, $12+ million to fight so far.

6/20 - 65,700+ acres, 55% containment, 1,900 personnel, $17+ million 

6/21 - 68,200 acres, 55% containment, $19+ million to fight


6/22 - 69,530 acres, 45% containment, $19+ millions, at least two more homes destroyed and 2,000+ personnel still fighting

6/24 - 83,000+ acres, 45% containment (Red Flag Warning for most of the West), 57 more homes destroyed 248 total) 

6/27 - 87,284 acres (and holding), 75% containment, 250+ homes destroyed, $33+ million to fight

WALDO CANYON FIRE UPDATE - 15,000+ acres, 5% containment, 32,000 evacuated, I-25 closed at times, 200-300 homes destroyed!!!



Smoke from the Flagstaff Fire (Boulder) from Golden - 6/26

Friday, June 8

Gone Platinum


Today was my last class in Boulder, so I decided, since the weather was finally cooperative, or at least not requiring of bulky clothing, that I would take a longer ride in and explore a bit before class, especially since the last couple of rides over I got to town much earlier than necessary.

Cherryvale Road


So I turned off Marshall Road and up Cherryvale. Cherryvale is a great road ride with nice wide shoulders. I followed Cherryvale to Baseline where I picked up the South Boulder Creek path. I had a moment of hesitation when it followed a road for a bit, but then I was on course and cranking hard.

The South Boulder Creek path meets the Boulder Creek path at the confluence of their namesakes. There I turned southwest and followed an amazing urban multi-use trail, my all -time favorite. It was a bit busy with commuters and strolling lounge acts. I only wanted to yell at a few people though.

And then I was at Broadway, and needed to head southeast to get to the building where my class was going to be held. First I was on a wide sidewalk, and feeling more than conspicuous, but it quickly morphed into a bike lane going up the hill from the creek. Then I crossed over and got on the sidepath that parallels Broadway on the campus (east) side.



I typically abhor sidepaths, but the one along Broadway is actually well designed and very nice.

In short order I was locking up my bike outside the Wolf Law Building. I'd ridden 28 miles in 2 hours and 28 minutes. Leadville pace plus.

The class was great. It was the Regenerative and Permaculture Design Class. This was, in fact, the class that drew me to the program. And sadly, for now, it was my last class. It only whetted my appetite for more permaculture knowledge!

At the end of the day I felt good, but once back on the bike I was sluggish. It was hot. I had been sitting all day. I had a long way to go home, too.

I was also taking a slightly different route on the return trip, and I got sidetracked once. But then I was back on a different section of the South Boulder Creek path, a very nice section south of South Boulder Road. 


No, I did not choose another trail


I finally returned to Marshall, and my normal route, and faced an uphill ride for a couple of miles and a stout headwind into Superior. I'd finally discovered a sneak attack route throug Superior that avoids the heavy main drag through the sprawlgasm of box store development there.

I crawled up along McCaslin, then back up through the open space to 120th. More wind. More slug. Finally I was headed down Simms toward Standley Lake, faster, but not as fast as I wanted to be going.

After what seemed a long grueling ride I pedaled back into the Bikeport to the lovely faces of home. When the final numbers were in I had managed a near 12 mph average on the commute home. I have no idea how...

In total I rode 52 miles today. I saw more of Boulder than I had previously, and I finally got to see a bit of what makes Boulder a Platinum level Bicycle Friendly Community. If I weren't so dog-tired I might try writing up a brief analysis of what I saw. That may come later.

I've concluded that despite the moniker of "The People's Republic of Boulder" and the perceived air of pretension, and the faint perpetual smell of patchouli, I would live in Boulder. Hey man, the Flatirons are right there!

Thursday, June 7

Complicity to Commute Fast


All morning people kept asking me: "Did you ride your bike today?"

When I would reply: "That's a stupid question, of course!" they would get pained looks and try and catch a glimpse of the sky before adding absently: "Do you know there are supposed to be thunderstorms this afternoon?"

"I brought a jacket!" I would reply. They would mumble something incoherent (presumably derision for my own "stupidity") before wandering away.

What's funny is that no one ever cared when I had to ride to and from work in the dark and cold. But a little rain, lightning, and the possibility of hail brings out the mother hen in the most cubiclized of us I guess. At least they were expressing concern for my well being.

Thunderstorms only worry me because of the possibility of being struck by lightning. The chances of beingstruck by lightning in your lifetime is 1/10,000.  The key to not being struck is to know where lightning is most likely to strike and to mitigate the conditions that make you conductive.  

Hail only hurts. A helmet actually serves a useful purpose during a hailstorm. Bruises typically heal.

Noon-ish today I looked out and saw rain and oogly skies. My hope was that everything would pass through earlier in the day instead of during my normal commute hour.

The afternoon was temporal torture. It dragged. But also, the skies remained oogly for quite awhile. Rain fell, the skies fell.

I looked up from my stupor and saw it was 5:05. ALMOST TIME TO GO!!!

I jumped up and began stripping down to change into my commuting garb and glanced through my high window out to the hall where in my allegory I get to see a semblance of the sky from my cave through the windows on the other side of the hallway.

What?! BLUE skies?

Hey! HEY!!! All you Chicken Littles! NO THUNDERSTORMS!!!

It's best if you don't hang the whole shebang on the nefarious predictions of the more attractive meterology students. I was going to be portaging a dry rain jacket all the way back home. But that's okay, I...WAIT!

No thunderstorms! My last commute of the week! RAMMING SPEED!!!

And so it was on.

I pushed hard, dodging pedestrians, motor vehicles, common sense, four way stops...making up for my complicity to commit a good example this morning...and SHA-ZAAM!!! I rocketed home with a 21.1 mph average.

Ramming Speed Thursday.

Stealin' Bread From the Mouths of Decadence

The walls were talking to me this morning. They asked: Did you ride your bike today?

"Of course I did, what kind of stupid question is that?!"

You know there are supposed to be thunderstorms this afternoon?

"That's why I brought my rain jacket."

You're crazy.

"#%$! you!"

Well, didn't really curse at my coworker, but I wanted to. And I want a different job, so maybe I should have.

In other personal commuting news, I was all discombobulated this morning, but in a good way. My cyclo-fascist routine was knocked off by my beautiful wife riding alongside me for 6 miles of my commute.

We stopped at all the stop signs, she called out "on your left" to even the path-crowders, and we had a nice ride together.

Last night we came to the conclusion that instead of our morning walk, we could sleep later, and she could ride part of the way in to work with me and then return.

As we parted ways just east of Golden I had a wave of contentness wash over me. I would rather we could have just kept riding together, but the ride we had was great.

That is one thing that hasn't changed for the better for us by living in such a bicycle friendly place: we just don't have enough free time.

So you steal it where you can, and if you get caught you play the "just stealing bread so my family can eat" card.

Tomorrow I'm stealing saddle time commuting to Boulder for my last class in pursuit of a professional certificate in sustainability management.

Soon.

I've been debating a full road ride this time. All of my previous commutes to Boulder have involved short cuts on trails. But I think Minus is fleet enough to get me there by a longer route. We'll see...

Not to get too political from such a good mood, but this morning the news was all aglow from the stock market results from yesterday, and hardly shivered as they transitioned to a discussion of the deplorable state of European economic shenanigans. So let's pat ourselves on the back and spin the wheel again today, right?

Here's to our kids being smarter than us...if they can manage to outlive us.

Wednesday, June 6

The Leadville Chronicles: But WHY Leadville?!

Not so long ago I would have simply, but loudly, said: "That's !@#$ insane!"

Why would someone voluntarily ride a bike 100 miles over rough and steep terrain?

The fundamental criteria is that this is a challenge that can be met in a day's time. I would love to replace Leadville with the Tour Divide. Being a husband and father, with a full time cubicle sentence, I can't, at this juncture in my life, pull off the Tour Divide. Or even the Colorado Trail Race...

But why such a body wrecking, mind-bending, suffer-intensive challenge? Why couldn't I just set a goal to ride 100 miles on my own? Or look to shorter, more fun rides?

Why am I not content to take up Wii golf?

That question is much harder for me to find an articulate answer.

Let's go back to the beginning. I was a quiet, scrawny, myopic, snaggle-toothed kid. Athletic prowess? I could run pretty fast and quite far in one push. That was a skill developed because of the above-mentioned qualities. Lover not a fighter? Not exactly, but when I was a teen I heard an adult once say: "A good run is better than a bad stand any day," and I found my previously unspoken childhood mantra.

I really had no other athletic prowess. I was scrawny, but hidden under my jeans were two churning pistons of runaway power.

My freshman year I received a varsity letter in cross country. I'm convinced if I had stayed in a school that offered cross country I could have actually earned my letter. As it was, my letter was a fluke.

Life plods on, youth resolves into the stark realities of adulthood, and middle age looms.  I've done nothing in life to distinguish myself.  I was a prolific rock climber for more than a decade, but always struggled to move up through the grades.

While I have been a regular cyclist for more than 30 years, I have never possessed the competitive urge to prove myself on the field of battle.

Until now. Something awoke in me over the last couple of years, a strong, strong urge to make some distinguishing mark.

But it's more than that. There's something more subtle at work in my psyche. Maybe it's the recognition that all of my former tormentors are not aging as well as I am. As I near 40 I still feel and look much younger. And in some ways I'm in much better shape than I was as a bespeckled, geeky, flight-prone teen. Finally, I have the physical advantage over my peers I never had before.

Realistically, I know it doesn't matter in the whole scheme of things. None of the brutes that made my adolescent existence utterly miserable are ever going to know or care about my success or failure at Leadville. But I'll know.

Maybe it's not about astounding feats of physical ability? Just shy of 40 I'm still struggling to find a career path. I'm bogged down in an entry level job, still struggling to be financially resilient, still wondering what I'm going to be when I grow up.

It's frustrating a have hit a wall along your career path that you cannot scale. It's especially frustrating when it's beyond your control to change, and the only consolation you ever hear is "Just be thankful you have a job!"

Lacking the opportunity or ability to make a real difference in the wide world nudges a soul toward drastic measures.

Am I offering myself up for sacrifice to the gods of the mid-life crisis? Hardly.

So what is it?

Partially, it's the location. I fell in love with Leadville the first time I visited in '09. Then last year when we were there I longed to find the means to make it my home. See above for the reasons that was never a viable option.

Go up there sometime and ride the Mineral Belt Trail. The landscape is amazing. Mind-boggling. Ride the roads around town.


















But the race! Why the race?!

Because its there, I guess. It's a race, but you don't have to be a pro racer to do it. It's hard. But attainable for mere mortals like myself and Lance Armstrong.

People are drawn to this particular challenge that have much greater obstacles to success than I do. Age. Disease. Fitness. Psychology. Altitude. So why can't I do it?

The likelihood of my failure will come in two forms: things under my control, and things not under my control.

The things I can't control can still be overcome. Weather. Mechanical failures. They can be mitigated and beaten. Maybe wretched weather will thwart my attempt. I could crack a frame, bend a rim, break a leg. Some of those things can be anticipated. Some can't.

The things under my control only become contributors to my failure if I let them get out of hand. Planning and preparation are key. Careful thought and thoughtful training are elemental.

Those are the true challenges I am seeking to meet. Can I prove to myself that I can set a goal, prepare for the goal, and then crush the goal? This is something else I've struggled with my entire life; of having a vision and being able to see it fulfilled. I've had more failures at that than successes.

My internal bullies are the ones I truly want to see defeated when I cross the finish and accept my buckle.

And will crossing that finish line change anything in my life? That's an even harder question to answer. Will more demons jump into the breach to take the places of those I'll slay in the mountains outside of Leadville? Probably. But maybe they won't be as battle-hardened. Maybe they'll be easier to defeat after a brief respite.

Tuesday, June 5

The Road Into Biketopia

I was thinking this morning that it is easy to take my commutes for granted.

During my undergraduate sentence, when I was commuting by car 89 miles a day three days a week and 114 the other two, I vowed that once I could choose, I would never again let myself get into that arrangement.

Now, not only is my commute less than 20 miles daily, I bike it every day.

There are days I'm bored with the same old scenery, and that's why I vary my commute more so than for traffic considerations. But even when I'm bored, it beats the same commute, confined in traffic behind the wheel of the car.

I don't really hate (most) cars, despite what my son thinks. Okay, I do hate Hummers, Audis, Lexi and Mercedes as a general rule. I can tolerate Beamers. I hate the whole Ford vs Chevy vs Dodge diatribe, but I like me some Mustangs, with older Camaroes a close second.

However, when I get behind the wheel (or handlebars for that matter) I want to GO. I don't want to sit idle and impotent while trying to reach my destination. I guess that's one reason the bike appeals to me- it is hardly slowed by the obstacles that bring automobiles to a screeching halt. I can continue forward motion unimpeded.

Ages ago I expounded on the virtues of the bicycle saying that, as a cyclist, I could behave as a car when convenient or as a pedestrian when convenient.

I've come a long way, ideologically speaking, since those days. But, when convenient, I still switch mobility roles.

The difference now is that I use much greater discretion when I choose to ride in pedestrian spaces and I generally stick to automobile spaces as much as possible.

Having said that, there is a perpetual atmosphere of angst at the pavement's edge, where cyclists are expected to sequester themselves, as we struggle to find our own spaces.

So part of my struggle to avoid taking for granted the opportunity to commute by bike daily is remembering that I'm doing what I only dreamt of doing just six years ago.

I thoroughly enjoy riding in all sorts of weather, in all states of personal disrepair, through all seasons and at all times of day. But when immersed in the context of day to day living it becomes too easy to fall into a rut and to begin hating the "drudgery" of bicycle commuting.

The truth is, if I could always choose my destinations, I don't think the journey would ever stale.

My recent daydreams involve long bike tours. I'm back to snacking on Ken Kifer's trip reports when no one's looking.

Sunday, June 3

The Outskirts of Biketopia

My niece and nephew are in visiting for the month of June. The really great thing is that they love to ride their bikes.

We've fixed up a couple of bikes for them to ride, and the six of us have ridden to Olde Town twice this past week. All four kids ride around the yard and our street at will.

Yesterday was Trails Day and we ventured over to Majestic View Nature Center for the festivities there. There was drama from my eldest, but we made it over there okay. Mandy met us about half an hour after we got there and we all just hung and enjoyed the scene, until...the sky to the west bruised an ugly indigo and gray.

At first us parental units didn't think much of the angry skies, but when lightning started flashing we rounded up the troops and beelined for the Bikeport.

The short version is that we made it home before the rain. And it never rained very hard. We'd had a good time at Trails Day, and next year will get there even earlier.

Ty has been asking to go to the bike park in Golden. I guess we'll have to venture out there while the kids are in. There are also plans to go camping somewhere where we can ride the mountain bikes. This next weekend I think we're going to go commune with nature in our own special way...at the top of our lungs.

These kids are LOUD. No, you don't get it.  

LOUD.

As we go riding around with the kids I sort of start to relive my own childhood to some degree. Its just fun to bike with kids. The difference is that I can't turn off the cyclofascist in me. Before we went to Trails Day I gave the kids a dooring demonstration and a comprehesive defensive riding lecture. And when Boone blew through a stop sign in the parking lot of the strip shopping center below our house I cried:

"We're going home!"

"Why?" the kids all yelled.

"Because Boone just got killed by a car when he ran a stop sign!" I didn't think it was melodrama, but they still didn't take me too seriously.   

Anyway, the old Bianchi Lynx MTB has returned to the Bikeport and has provided me some wrenching practice. It really needs its wheels trued, and I've been trying to justify a truing stand. It's a great old solid framed bike. There's part of me that wants to make it into a touring bike for Mandy so we can do some mixed terrain touring when the kids fly east for July. 

Time will tell...