Sunday, March 23, 2008

Lazarus awakes

In my garage many years ago, long before I became a Randonneur but around the time I started biking again, I determined to build a third boat (first was a sailboat, then a dinghy). This would be a lovely strip built kayak (yeah yeah, I know, I am now a stripper, Ha ha). I bought a book telling how to do it, purchased a bunch of 1 X redwood stock from home depot, cut it into hundreds of 1/4 thick strips and I was off and running. I worked continuously for many months bringing the boat into shape and fiber glassing the outside and then it went into the first period of neglect. Resuming my labors I found the two shells that would become one round boat had contracted and when I spread them to fit them together a million little bubbles in the fiberglass formed. From here I would need to remove the whole underside fiberglass layer and probably the badly blemished top as well. The frustration and disappointment led to a long period of neglect for this boat now put out of sight and out of mind on the side of the house. After a few years I got the bug to strip the fiberglass off and found a heat gun quite helpful. Then I lost the will to do more and so the boat sat for another year, developing weathered spots on the exposed wood where the fiberglass had separated or yellowed.

Well fair readers, whether it was a desperation to drive away the depression I was having as a side effect from all that has happened lately or some muse was pounding my soul with desire, I took up the restoration of the kayak with a passion over the last week and a half. No more would the unfinished job face me through the dining room window constantly reminding me of my inability to finish. $150 of epoxy from west marine and digging the fiberglass cloth out of a dark corner of the garage and I was started on several days mixing, coating, waiting while curing and repeat. Through swarms of killer bees (interestingly enough bees are most docile when they are swarming and they decided to swarm at my house last week, luckily the activity in the backyard discouraged them from establishing a permanent hive in our back yard and one warm afternoon while I was working on the boat up they flew and off into some neighbors yard down the road to make a hive, it was a once in a lifetime event to witness not being a bee keeper and all), blazing sun, and placid evenings the boat was made serviceable. Five and a half years after starting construction it was finally ready to launch yesterday morning when I caulked the bulkheads in. I still have to finish the seat and the foot pegs, and do a little sanding and varnishing to protect the epoxy from UV but that is it. I determined though as the boat was able to be put into water that Saturday was the day. So after the kid's Easter egg hunt thing I loaded up the kayak and was out to Saguaro lake by 12:30 PM.

Fair readers, I have never paddled a kayak before. I had an inflatable kayak but they are very different animals (I recently had to throw the inflatable out as after 21 years of service it finally gave up the ghost leaving me boatless for the first time since I was 10 when I bought a two man raft with my paper route money). I have to say had I not looked up a few tips online I wouldn't have even been able to get in the boat. Before I even got the boat in the water someone complimented me on it. It was kind of cool. It has it's blemishes from sitting out so long but it is still a beautiful boat if I do say so myself (Of course even mothers of ugly babies think they are cute though). Anyway, I managed to get in it and felt good and realized that kayaks are amazingly tipsy at first. I had heard this but wasn't quite ready for it. This is a good thing once your body adjusts to having this large extremely buoyant addition to your bottom attached to your body. The ability to lean the kayak into waves and away really adds to the seaworthiness of the boat. I managed to adjust pretty quickly and cast my plan to tool around Butcher Jones swim beach for awhile to the wind. Out I paddled along the shoreline into the main lake. I was really impressed with the speeds at which you can paddle a nice narrow and long kayak through the water with little effort. I figure I kept between 3 - 4 mph all day and that is with not having paddled anything in over a year. At one point aiming straight into a rather large wake from a power boat I did manage to bury my bow and get a bit of splash into the cockpit. I made a mental note to avoid going straight into the big waves as I do not have a spray skirt as of yet and filling the cockpit with water was not a good idea as I had my cell phone in my pocket. I paddled further out along the cliffs heading up the lake and every kayak I passed coming the other way (I was the only one going up the lake for some reason (must have been that the afternoon winds were getting ready to start up) commented on my kayak. Comments ranged from "nice boat" to, "your boat is gorgeous" from some nice ladies paddling sea kayaks. Almost everyone had good things to say as they passed. That made me feel good. It made me feel really good.

After I passed the cliffs and entered the upper end of the lake I would be the only human powered boat out there surrounded by large motor boats ranging from little speed boats to obnoxiously large mini-yachts owned by people who can't figure out that San Diego is only 5 hours away and is a much better place to keep a 30 foot cabin cruiser. It reminded my of whitewater at times but I managed to keep water out of the cockpit as I navigated waves anywhere from 2 foot high all the way up to 4 footers. On the way back I would get some real interesting waves when investigating a small cave in the cliff as the waves coming in and the waves going out made for some interesting turbulence. I will have to bring my boys back here when they get cocky in their teenage years about how lakes are soooo boring.
I contemplated on the way back how similar sea kayaks were to road bikes. They both move silently along surrounded on all sides by giant stinking machines belching refuse into the air like so many toxic farts with accompanying noise. Both are extremely efficient at what they do, and both lead to a state of mind brought on through ceaseless rhythm that is almost zenlike, taking the operator to heightened levels of awareness.
Needing a quick break from paddling I ducked back into a nice cove I like on the east side of the lake about a half hour paddle from Butcher Jones. It is a narrow slot in the side of the lake sheltered from waves and noise mostly. Power boats can't go back much as there is a large sandbar about a foot below the lake level extending for a hundred yards or more. Paddling over it looks like one is flying as the rocks and sand pass beneath the hull of the boat. Overhead five hawks are hunting for food on the tops of the cliffs. In the back of the canyon are some waterfowl floating among the cattails and reeds. Life is still and yet ever moving back here. Moving in a nice way. Moving in a quiet way. I breath in the experience and steel myself for the return I must make to the lake full of thrill seekers and stink pots towing them around, and further the return to civilisation and the trials and stresses of life. Besides, my elbow was starting to get sore after nearly three hours of paddling.

All told I paddled 10 miles and was out for just under 4 hours. That is quite a bit of paddling and a proper breaking in for a new boat I think. All day I had been thinking of what to call the boat. I had originally thought of calling it KiMizu which means wood of the water in Japanese. Then I thought perhaps something having to do with trials. In the end being Easter and all I thought perhaps the most appropriate name would be Lazarus as it died for many years before finally coming back to life. So, Lazarus has arisen and carried me across the waters and hopefully will continue to do so for many years to come.

Sorry to post something not bike related but I figured this was kind of special.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Funky Jack

Saturday morning (early early) I went down to help the people on the 400k bike ride at the Picacho Peak stop since I couldn't ride it due to all the stuff happening recently. On the way back I stopped at the Santan Regional Park for an hour or so of mountainbiking. An old friend of mine told of his local golf course and a fellow they called "Dirty Jack" who new and somwhat well to do people thought of as a newb or greenie and didn't think much of. Well, it turns out this fellow was incredibly good at golf and would always show up the guys in the expensive clothes and with the expensive clubs. Saturday I was that man. I had nice cyclingclothes but my bike was 17 years old and had no suspension like all the other mountain bikers do thesedays. Anyway, I proceeded to pass many bikers on their fully tricked out $1000+ bikes and even went through some stuff that some of them chickened out on. I later ran into a group of them later and overheard someone saying "look over there, theres that guy I was telling you about!". It felt good to know that although I have hardly done any mountain biking since living at NAU 12-13 years ago that I still had my chops so to speak,even with a sprained thumb.
The desert flowers are beautiful right now and I opted to take the kids up to Usery park in the afternoon to see how they would take to doing a little mountain biking of their own. Adela loved riding on the trail-a-bike behind me and Josh and Becky ate up the trails. Joseph on the other hand, had to walk a lot more and was not quite so happy. I believe the fact that his front wheel is not centered and his seat was too high may have something to do with it so I am going to work on that this week I think.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hood Ornament - almost

Well fair readers. yesterday I had one of the closest calls I have had in 16 years on the bike. I was headed eastbound on Ray road (no bike lane but the outside lane is wider). The sun was just heading into sunset at my back, I was cruising along at a spiffy 20 mph crossing an intersection when suddenly the black corvette waiting to turn left from the opposite lane guns it in an effort to beat the cars behind me. Well, I didn't really have time to be impressed by the spiffy acceleration of our fine american made sports cars as I realized everything was going into super slow motion I am going to be hit adreno vision. I could brake but I was past that point so I yelled a couple of times, and braced for the impact and prepared to lie down on his car and skid across the pavement. The impact never came, I heard his brakes screech from behind me. He must have just barely had enough reaction time to get a little braking in. He can't have missed me by more than a few inches and I wouldn't be surprised to see rubber marks on the side of his car from my back wheel. If he had not been in a convertible I don't think he would have heard me and perhaps his reaction would have been too late. I was shaken for the rest of the evening. But this morning I am back on the bike. 16 years of riding is a long time. Another 16 would be nice without another one of these incidents. If he had hit me my wife and I could have raced around the house in his and her wheel chairs although It is most likely I would have broken my collar bone, although his bumper could have snapped my ankle if it caught my foot on the downstroke.
On a more happier but not necessarily good note, I got another pop from somewhere near my feet this morning as I stood to pedal through an intersection. new BB, New Pedals, New rear hub. Only one option left fair readers. It is time for a thorough frame inspection. Although maybe it is the cleats?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Bedtime story

Once upon a time, there was a Randonneur named Paul, and he needed a bicycle ride in a bad way.......

The last two weeks I have been taking care of my wife as she has been in bed most of them. The last few days she has been able to get up and move around in the wheel chair. Anyway, this has not been the most conducive to riding. Last Saturday they said they wanted me to take a long ride but it just didn't happen. So this week my wife says I should get one in. Well, my wife being done with her surgery, it was time to do a little surgery on my fair lady, my steel mistress, my roadbike. I had two mysterious popping noises come out of the drivetrain on the last brevet, and I had been getting some smaller tick noises now and again too. It was time to check the drive train. First discovery was that one of my pedal's bearings was no longer tight and it was time for new pedals (they had already been rebuilt once). Fortunately Performance had eggbeaters on closeout for $40. I'll take a $99 set of pedals for $40 any day. So I commuted a few days on them and they felt nice but the ticking hadn't gone away (yes, I was able to start commuting again this week not to mention working). So, next thing was the bottom bracket. Last night I hung my bike up in the garage and went to work. After work I had picked up a new bottom bracket from Landis Cyclery (last BB was a nashbar cheapie so I figured it was very likely on it's last legs). Sure enough, after pulling the cranks off there was way too much spin on the bottom bracket meaning that those sealed bearings had no grease left in them and were starting to loosen up. It was at this point that I realized I had lost my BB removal tool. I turned the garage upside down but no BB tool. So, that meant buying a new tool in the morning and no early morning ride. To make matters worse a scout troop called me up wanting me to teach them some Compass skills in the morning too (I did get a hotdog out of the deal). So, by noon and after visiting 3 bike shops I had a new BB tool in my hot little hand and my beloved bike was back together again. Alas, it was off to the zoo as D'Net needed to get some sunshine having been cooped up in either the house or the hospital for 2 weeks. So we wheeled out the wheelchair and went off. Long story short, it's 9 PM and I need a ride.

9 PM I am sitting on the driveway and switching on the lights. Soon I am off through the neighborhood cutting through the busy night of Mesa Arizona. I slowly climb towards usery pass as I need some good climbing. Slowly and surely, I pass the gas station and memorial where Balbeer Singh Sodi was murdered by a misguided paranoid man the day after 9/11. Up the street I pass Red Mountain park and then the street lights stop for a bit. I cross what will be the last segment of the Red Mountain Freeway to be completed. On and upward I continue as the sections with streetlights grow fewer and even the yuppies can't build there as I am approaching national forest and they are powerless to put up their obnoxious yet supposedly landscape friendly houses to obstruct the view of the city and the mountain. Then suddenly I am free. Darkness surrounds me and the traffic dies down to an occasional car splitting the night for a few seconds. Silence envelopes me and I gaze at the mountains sillouetted against the sky. Usery Mountain on the right and Phoenix mountain on the left. I am climbing without dropping into my small ring tonight. I must have gained some climbing power hitting El Diablo and doing my threshold workouts on Wednesdays. The Stars are out brightly shining. Ahead is the big dipper as I proceed nearly due North. To my left is the pleides also known as the Subaru corporate logo. Just South of them is Orion, forever drawing his arrow yet never releasing. Below him I am releasing. All the anxiety of the hospital and the worry over surgery is flowing into the pavement now. I push on. Soon work stress starts to unload. I am to the pass and gazing down the otherside into darkness. I plunge into it. Descending through the night the hill seems endless. I am going 30 miles an hour and yet it seems slower. The hill keeps coming and yet it seems like I am reliving the same section of the hill over and over. The sky is tinted pink from the lights of the city. Before me is the lights of Falcon Hill far accross the valley. Soon I am at the bottom and ready to turn around and climb the hill. I determine that I will not drop out of the middle gear again on this hill. It is a long hard slog to the top. I forge on through the night, absorbing the moment and the balmy night air. The black saguaros of the night are like people reaching for the stars and yet never catching them, like Orion constantly aiming and never shooting. On into the night, I catch a desert scent and am transported into my teenage years when my Dad and I would backpack the Grand Canyon. I am at Phantom Ranch campground smelling the desert of the Grand Canyon on a cool March evening. After cresting I descend back towards the city, The lights of the valley look like a vast ocean of christmas lights lapping at the black beach which is the bottom of the hill. Not ready to let go of this moment I turn onto brown road and ride out to the Superstitions. Soon it is approaching 11 pm and I must return to my former life, exiting the night and my thoughts turning to the matters of the morrow.

On another note, for your viewing pleasure. Here are the pictures of my wifes ankle after surgery. You will see 12 screws, a plate, and a whole bunch of staples to hold the skin together.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

So ends a brevet season......

This is an ankle fair readers. It is not my ankle but my wife's. There are several things wrong with this picture. A broken tibia, fibula, and a dislocated ankle not to mention a bone in serious risk of poking through the skin. The doctor and radiologists were quite impressed. For my wife this meant re-constructive surgery on her ankle, a hospital stay of 4 days (of course the first 13 hours of that were spent in the emergency room not counting the Original emergency room visit of last Saturday).

It all started Saturday, my wife was at a Piano Festival thingy for her students at Mountain View high school. She was walking to the parking lot when suddenly she was attacked by a giant 4" curb. No this is not like Spinal Tap where the guy wants an 18 foot tall stonehenge monument descending onto the stage and he accidentally writes 18" on the napkin. It was a 4" curb that she didn't see and she landed wrong and fell. So my friends, even being a piano teacher can be a dangerous job. They rushed her over to Mesa General hospital and I met her there after we got the kids taken care of. I usually faint anytime I am near medical equipment but I have to say after the last week I no longer have that problem and in fact I was actually able to give my wife her blood thinning injection last night without toppling over. She stayed at home Saturday and Sunday in an immense amount of pain since the doctors at Mesa General underestimated the injury. We went into the Orthopedic Surgeon's office on Monday and D'Net was in so much pain when they pulled the cast off that she hyperventilated and shivered uncontrollably. The surgeon feared a blood clot (the worst result of which is death so he was a bit concerned) and since the swelling had not subsided a bit he sent us straight to the emergency room where we sat for a long time. We got there at 3 pm we got into the Triage nurse at 7pm and finally got in to see the doctor just after midnight. It was the busiest their emergency room had been in over a year. After an ultrasound to check for blood clots (none thankfully), it was off to more x-rays. From a hall bed (hospital was in code purple which means there are more patients than beds and the workers need to kick anyone that is even close to being able to leave out, they would have several more code purple events that week) they decided to re-set the ankle. Now I don't know how painful your injuries in the past have been but people with broken ankles who talked to my wife said it is more painful than childbirth (they were women of course,I suppose that is important to clarify that). I held her hand and had to watch her endure 5 minutes of hell. In fact, it was so bad that the lady in the next hall bed down started crying. Most people with broken legs get them set and it is over, my wife got it set once, then had 3 days of immense pain (every time she moved she said she could feel the bones moving around), followed by another setting. The second set of x-rays showed that the ankle had in fact gotten worse despite three days of bed rest only getting up to use the restroom and the leg being elevated and iced during that time. Well, we finally got to a room around 6:30 in the morning just as the sun came up. I have decided Hospitals are the worst places to stay if you want rest. Every fifteen minutes someone is coming in to check something. Her doctor checked in on Tuesday and said they needed to wait for the swelling to go down to operate otherwise the skin wouldn't hold the sutures without ripping. Well, we were hoping and praying really hard the swelling would go down enough in the next 24 hours. Wednesday just before he pulled the splint off he said that if it hadn't gone down she would need to go home for 10 days and wait for it to go down. Fortunately when he checked it he said it was good enough and that she would go into surgery at 6 PM. An operation that typically takes 60 -120 minutes and that the surgeon expected to take 90 stretched into 2 hours and 30 minutes. Turns out the x-rays only showed some of the damage. Her post-operation x-ray looked like a home improvement project gone wrong with all the screws and the plate showing up quite clearly. The doctor also said there was excessive ligament and tendon damage.

Since she was able to get her pain under control the next day and her condition looked good they sent her home Thursday night. I have been by her side all of those except for about 5 hours spent at home showering and checking in with work (I was able to do an amazing amount of work from the public computer at the hospital and the phone in the room though). She will be bedridden for awhile but at least she is mobile enough to use the restroom. Fortunately between our friends we have a wheelchair, crutches, and a walker. It will be awhile before she uses the crutches but the walker and the wheelchair are lifesavers.

Her outlook- she has 6 months of rehab ahead of her. Over half of those spent in a cast and some additional spent in a walking boot. That's a lot of damage for a tiny curb. Just goes to show even just plain old walking can create as much carnage as going down at 20+ if not more. Yesterday I built ramps for the front and side doors.

I didn't do much work last week and of course not much cycling. My in-laws are coming over this morning to allow me to get out for a quick 30 miles. At this point I can't see me taking out the Saturdays, much less getting in enough training to do the 400k or 600k in the next 2 months so I am going to have to satisfy my brevet cravings with permanents this summer (mostly done in the high country I think, Mike Sturgill has some, and ones starting in the desert I might be able to finagle riding at night for the start until the elevation climbs up to more temperate climates). It sucks but sometimes life rains on our brevet and though I love Randonneuring and cycling, I love my wife far more. So, I will satisfy myself with shorter rides for now and hopefully I can build up again to some longer rides in May and the rest of the summer.