Saturday, August 28, 2010

People ask...

After so many rides now (21), people ask me if I can make it through a day without getting on my bike. I've chuckled a little any time someone has asked. I'm not that driven. Well, after this week in which I have not ridden, I really miss my bike. What I know is that I feel much better when I do ride. Today I spent 45 minutes on a stationary recumbent bike, and although it was uncomfortable and, well, stationary, I felt great afterward--uplifted, nearly giddy. This winter, when the weather is formidable, I'm going to have remember the feeling I had today, and get my butt back in the saddle.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

catching up (rides 17-20, I think)

Oh my word, I haven't written in days. So sorry. I've had some glorious rides with wonderful people.

After biking to school and back (which I count as two rides) on Friday, I rode with my friend, Dawn Martin, along the Columbia, a flat 12-miler on Saturday. It was later in the afternoon, and so, we had the bike path mostly to ourselves. Riding side-by-side is a great way to catch up with a friend. Unfortunately, though, there was a strong headwind on the way home. That can certainly add stress. But Dawn's good spirits pulled us through.

That ride capped off an extraordinary day. Cheryl had surprised me with an overnight to Skamania Lodge for Friday evening, and then, as we had planned, we went to celebrate my birthday on Saturday morning by going on a sternwheeler cruise along the Columbia, leaving from Cascade Locks. Unbeknownst to me, my brother and a good friend from Houston flew in to surprise me. They held the door open for me at the dock, and I practically fainted. My body recognized them before my mind did. What an incredible gift.

The picture shows my joy at seeing my brother. Even though my brother was with us the next day, I did do the Portland Half Century, not the whole century. I'm a wimp. The "extreme climbing" of the middle 50 miles scared me for the second year in a row. And frankly, it was a good idea to stop at the split.

My equipment is showing a bit of wear. A bolt had fallen out of my shoe, and so, my clip did not unclip. Yes, that was scary. I had to stop, take my foot out of my shoe, and force the clip out. The next 22 miles were a challenge--keeping my foot on the pedal and pushing metal-to-metal but a half-inch raised. By the end of the 50 miles, my right quad was complaining.

My friend, Linda Brumder, was kind enough to join me on the 50. While it was a flat course, there were challenges, but she didn't show the strain. She could have gone another 50, I'm sure.
Luckily, we had a great meal after. That's the thing about doing 8-9 rides in a row: you get a bit hungry.

While I don't have my list in front of me, I think I have 30 more rides to go. My word, what have I done to myself? Some of the best things about this challenge are people dusting off their bikes and coming along, seeing great sights, and more. I'll ride just about anywhere with just about anyone. Want to ride?

Right now I'm in Connecticut with more relatives, and not riding. When I return on Aug. 30th, I will be focused on training for Cycle Oregon. I might not be riding just once a day or just flat rides for a couple of weeks. After CO from Sept. 11-18, I'll be back to riding a diverse schedule. Wanna come along? I'd love it. Thanks for all your support.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Best. Day. Ever.

This is how the day started,
with a card from Cheryl:

In truth, I am part Golden Retriever, and so, a soggy ball in my mouth, running all day in the water means pure happiness. That's what today was for me.

Two bike rides with great friends, amazing surprise gifts, a poem from a dear cousin, hysterical cards, dinner at a Greek restaurant, calls from my siblings, flowers and songs from in-laws and loved ones, a Papa Haydn's dessert, it's been perfect. 

Nicole and her son, Lukas, joined Cheryl and me for a wonderful spin around Sauvie Island, a flat 12-miler through fields of pumpkins, cauliflower, and geese. Lukas had ridden 70 miles yesterday with his dad, so he was stretching his legs. Cheryl got me laughing so hard I fell over, but drew no blood. 

(I'm sorry I took out most of Lukas's face with my rear view mirror.)

After Cheryl went to work, Amanda came over and we headed out to Hagg Lake (see yesterday's post). Amanda is renewed after finishing summer quarter, and we zoomed around the lake. The clouds parted right as we got there, and we rolled over the rollers and chugged up the hills. Of course, there was a headwind on the way back into Forest Grove. We talked about daughters and when they use the word, "mommy" or "momma." Her daughter sometimes needs practice using a bigger girl voice, and so, maybe A has suggested she not use "mommy" quite so much. And our Kendra used "momma" a couple of times the day she left, letting us know that she had a wide range of emotions going off to college. The use of "momma" meant the world to Cheryl.

After biking I read lovely Facebook greetings, and soon Cheryl and I headed off to Eleni's in Sellwood for an outdoor Greek dinner. Oh baby, that was amazing. Then, to Papa Haydn's (a good walk), and we brought dessert home. What could be better!!

It's been a glorious 50th birthday, full of playfulness, surprise, and love, love, love. Thank you, life.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hagg Lake

Fit and humble are two words that come to mind when thinking of the friend who biked with me today: Jan Fortier. She's all about books, gardening, friendship, good relationships, and health. What a great smile, great friend. She used to commute by bike twice a week from SE Portland to Marylhurst, up the cemetery hill, down to LO, back through Tryon Creek, etc. What an animal.
We started at the McMenamin's Grand Lodge, rode out Rt. 47 to the old Hwy 47 Rd, and then around Hagg Lake. When the clouds burnt off, the lake sparkled. It's nothing but rollers around the lake, and fun.  It was great to share those hills, those osprey, that time.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

a good momma

After two days off, I rode twice today. Felt good. Had lots to think about. Kendra, Cheryl's daughter, left for college today. Two of her bestest friends came over to see her off, and then, surprised her at the airport to say goodbye. I said goodbye from our house, with Rafi in my arms. Cheryl and Kendra took Mia in the car with them to the airport. It's an important day.

Cheryl and I have been talking about the little things that make someone a daughter or a mother, what makes a good mother. In the last ten years I've witnessed lots of little things. Since we've lived together the last two and a half years, I've marveled at the notes almost every morning that Cheryl leaves for Kendra, the lunch she's made every day of school, the laundry folded, the millions of texts sent and received about evening plans and doctors' appointments, and the list goes on. And it's the little things that I'll miss: the way Kendra greets the dogs, her smile in the door when she comes home, and more.

So, the climb up Saltzman Road to Skyline was my grief, my way of using my heart to shed tears. And gliding down Thompson was part of the joy I feel for the freedom Kendra is experiencing, the wild abundance of college. And then, the return up Springville Road was calm, hot acceptance. This is new. This is where we are.

Only 18 miles today, but plenty of elevation. It's an important day.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

to Crown Point

Because of the heat and plans for the rest of the day (fairwell barbecue for Kendra), I changed the riding plan for today to something a little closer in. So, to Crown Point it was! Shortly into the ride, the wind hit. Wow, a head wind going, which is much better than headwind coming back. Huge lines of riders blew by me. I tried to stay calm even when women my age passed me. So it goes. At Crown Point the wind almost knocked me over. Getting back on to my bike was a tricky balancing act, but gosh, oh golly, the ride back down was lickety-split. Way fun. "Can't touch that," Hammer sang.

My incredibly-supportive partner commented yesterday, "You seem like your head is not tripping you up with these rides," or something like that, and it's true. These days I'm out to have a great time, not to conquer anything. I realize I am incredibly lucky to have the health, salary, time, and more to be able to do these rides. The villagers I've seen in Kenya and Tanzania have no time; they are working always, usually with their bodies. I am not wasting these precious rides. At least, I hope I'm not. There are too many blessings to count.

Today was ride #12, 253 miles total. About 203 miles this week.

Friday, August 13, 2010

temperature does a lot!

OK, I have to confess that yesterday I didn't ride. I was supposed to do a flat 50, but I worked on my novel, instead. I don't think I'll be able to make it up, but I could tell that my body just needed a little down time.

Today's ride was fabulous. You HAVE to do this: get up early (5am) and drive out to Mosier (65 minutes). Park near the totem pole, past the ice cream shop... (It's a great town!) Go east on Rt. 30. The first 6 miles are basically uphill to Rowena Lookout, which is as beautiful as Crown Point. And you have exquisite views of the Columbia on your left, as your companions. And then the downhill is quite lovely. Just a little leaning with the hips, and the turns felt like luge (although I have no idea what that feels like...)

Riding through The Dalles isn't much fun. You just go through downtown, and then, after 20 miles, there's 15 miles uphill through rolling wheat fields, past an old, abandoned farm, under views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams. That's the Emerson Loop, except when you turn back toward TD, there's a gentle downhill for miles. Coasting along at 21 mph, I felt like a real cyclist, that is until the border collie came out of nowhere and kept up with me. Yikes! Luckily, it didn't try to grab my wheel.

Anyway, the whole trip back was great--no wind--which those of you who have ridden in the Gorge know that is unheard of. Especially on Friday, the 13th.

There are so many things to think about when you're on the cycle for 5 hours: keeping the front wheel steady, figuring out how to deal with 20 degrees more heat, how long is that hill? Well, there are other things, like the sorrow I sense in my chiropractor these days; like the surprise of discovering that my dogsitter, whom I've known for 20 years, died in April and I knew nothing about it (and feel so badly that I did not help or say goodbye); and like figuring out words or twists in my novel. When I get bored with my thinking or need a boost, I turn on my speakers with the iPod inside; the "exercise" playlist gets me going. It's a blast to have music blaring when I'm trudging up a hill.

And it was just plain beautiful today. What a gift. At the end of the day I even got to see the driveway being put into our Mosier land. It's amazing to see a dream become reality.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


You know you have a pal when she makes room in her day between babysitters/kids, errands, and grading papers to ride with you up treacherous terrain. Such is my friend, Amanda.

(Gosh, I look goofy!!)
Well, she is a hill-machine!! She blew up Rt. 213. Cars could barely keep up. 
And on the way back, the sky opened up to show the beauty of a crisp Oregon day. Glorious. (rides #9 & 10).
Tomorrow I want to do a flat 50, if anyone wants to come along. On Friday, early in the morning, I'll drive to Mosier and do a stunning ride along the Columbia, through The Dalles, up into the rolling wheat fields and back, (against the force of the wind...). Y'all come!

ride #8

Yesterday I stretched along the waterfront. The clouds never burnt off, so it was yet another cool ride, which is great. This weekend is supposed to be warm, and with long rides ahead, that's not a great thing...

My friend and CCC colleague, Amanda Coffey, with whom I'm riding to school today, shared the following link. For anyone who loves biking and loves this earth, the next 5-minute animation is soooo worth it:
Thoughts on My Bike...

Those watercolors really capture the carefree, thoughtful, magic passage on a bike.
More later...

Monday, August 9, 2010

downhill both ways

Before I went out to Estacada to start a lovely ride, I had a lovely time riding with Cheryl on her route to work. (see photo).

About 2 minutes later, I ran into Mat Coffey, on his way to work. What fun to live in such a small city.

So, the ride from Estacada along the Clackamas River is one of the only rides I know that feels as though you're riding downhill both ways. Honest. This is my fourth time riding it, and all 4 have started out soggy. Lots of mist. OK, well, there are a couple of hills, at both ends of the ride (it's an out-and-back.) The one closest to Estacada is about 2-3 miles long, and just a slog, but otherwise, it feels like downhill all the way, baby. And then, there's the river the whole way. Then, there are osprey and eagles. Occasionally there are people cheering you on. Living in Oregon we're thick in beauty.

Around mile 17 the clouds lifted, and the river sizzled. Of course, the clouds were still there when I turned around at Ripplebrook ranger station, and that made for a cool ride back, especially with a headwind. But I had my tunes, my speakers for my iPod. The Police (oh, take me back to the 80s!) helped me up the 8%-grade hill at the end.

It was an ideal ride. I'd highly recommend it. Onward...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

had to happen

Well, I knew sometime it would... When I unloaded my bike at the bottom of the hill, I realized I had forgotten some vital equipment: my biking shoes. At least I had my Keens (not the kind with clips in them, unfortunately). So, I had an hour to get up Saltzman Road to Skyline, to a friend's house for a meeting of our writing group, and I didn't want to just "hang out" somewhere and kill an hour. So, up I went.

Saltzman Road is a fire access road into Forest Park and partially paved. It's the least steep access into the part and up to Skyline. Without the draw of the feet on the pedals, it's a little steeper, a little less sure. And yes, it was hot, around 80 degrees, there was plenty of shade. My feet didn't slip. The different angle of my feet played a little with my calves, but I made it up, hit the pavement of Skyline and the traffic of folks heading to the Street of Dreams and later, heading home. Those narrow roads and turns are scary, but so many cyclists up there keep cars alert (I hope). I made my poetry group. I learned.

Off for two days, two days at the Coast for Cheryl's birthday. ( 50+ miles so far this week, good hills, more on Sunday. It's a good return to cycling. Thanks for your support.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Kenyan air

This morning the air could be Kenyan, hazy, the promise of hot. It could be Kenya outside, except the air has that slight sparkle of ocean coolness and no scent of wet cardboard or damp wood smoke. The air showed me that I'm not completely back, that still I am between continents.

...Except I had a latte...

...Except I had two breakfasts and went to an Apple Store to fix an iPod.

Yesterday I rode the third ride of the week, up the cemetery from the Sellwood Bridge to Burlingame, over to Terwilliger down to Duniway track and back up again. Zooming down the hills, I felt for the first time in a long time really connected to my bike, like it was part of my body. All too often the handlebars feel like something else alive; the pedals are their own thing. Yesterday they came together, trusted me, and I them.

Today I'll head up to Skyline, tomorrow the world.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It was a gorgeous day for the first ride of 50, and my friend and fellow dangerous writer, Nicole, came along. We rode along Marine Drive and talked writing and MFA programs and families. Surprisingly few people were on the path, but many osprey above. It was wonderful to be using my body after 3 weeks of sloth. Thanks, Nicole, for a wonderful start.
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Kenya 2010 w/

Monday, August 2, 2010

back in the saddle

The trip to Kenya and Tanzania was a dream come true. Well, actually, my expectations going into the trip were low because I couldn't imagine seeing the Great Migration of the wildebeest and thought for sure we'd miss it. Not only did we see some of the 1.5 million wildebeest crossing the Maasai Mara, but we saw it two days in a row!! We saw so many animals, so many lions and leopards and elephants and giraffes, that now that I'm back, it's hard to believe we were really there, really smelling the dry grass, the marshes, inhaling the incessant dust. At times sometimes we heard hyenas calling, once a lion growling outside my window. (Thank goodness for windows and doors!)

Today I start the 50 rides. One friend is going with me on the inaugural ride, flat, not too long. The most exercise I've had for the last 3 weeks has been walking from the touring vans to the dinner line. Oh my! I had fantasies of riding my bike again, along the basalt cliffs of the Columbia, through the meadows of Lynn Country, over the hills.

Will you join me? I hope so. Can't wait!