Thursday, October 23, 2008

Double Dose of Therapy

Well, I found myself on Tuesday thinking that I had nothing planned on Wednesday, no interviews, no one had posted new jobs, and I needed some time out in the countryside. I needed something like the following (the best commercial ever in my humble opinion).

That commercial always reminds me of Randonnuering. I am sure Lance has never ridden his bike through all that in one day. A Randonneur does face all that in one day often. A brevet/permanent allows one to live a life in a day. Starting a bit nervous in the morning with a full days work ahead of them. Then slowly, turn by turn they build the miles and progress through the route, facing winds, heat, rain, whatever and they overcome it. Finally, tired and sore, late into the night they limp into the last control and get that precious signature and a receipt that shows they completed the journey and now have a well deserved rest after a good guilt free helping of the food of their choice.

Tuesday morning I emailed Mike Sturgill and asked if I could run the Yarnell 300 permanent the next day. Being the swell fellow that he is he emailed me the control card info and the cue sheet. I was setup to start at 6 AM the next morning at the corner of 32nd street and Union Hills. I didn't start at 6 AM. I got out of the house late and it was a few minutes before 6 when I turned into Mike's neighborhood and saw him ride by aways ahead leaving for work (at least I assume he is the only bike commuter in his neighboorhood that was up at that hour heading off to work). Making quick work of getting on the road I bought gatorade, sunscreen, blistex, and energy bars at circle k and then I was out at 6:07.

It was still dark out but the eastern horizon was starting to get light. I rode through the gathering twighlight and on my way over to Scottsdale road grabbed a fistfull of creosote on my way by a creosote bush and enjoyed the scent of the leaves (smells like a desert rainstorm). At Scottsdale road I saw two mobile homes pulling into the parking lot that were marked "Ride for Semper Fi". There were some guys from the Brumbys involved in this and I gave them a wave. They were probably surprised to see a guy with a Brumbys jersey riding around on this end of the valley at this time of the morning on a Wednesday.

On Scottsdale road I would meet Mr. Dingus for the first time today. He was a guy in a big diesel dumptruck that worked for a landscaping firm. In the construction he let me know his IQ with one long blast on his horn, I gave him a wave (and used all my fingers even though I was tempted to wave with 1). This happened to be right in front of a motorcycle cop but he was doing paperwork and kind of gave me an apathetic look as I pulled over. I pulled over because I wanted to get my sunglasses out so I could put my rearview mirror on to see people like Mr. Dingus. The Construction ended just past there so I didn't have to contend with anymore drivers, I do get the feeling drivers up in Scottsdale are a bit more high strung than drivers in the east valley. I have gone years without a horn honk and today I had two. Ok, they were by the same guy but still, it was a little annoying even if I don't make a broad generalization.

Cruising up Scottsdale road I am amused to see that someone has tried to turn it into some sort of automobile nature trail by labeling plants on the side of the road with signs too small to read when passing at high speeds. I enjoy the few signs whose plants I don't know and am amused at the specimen they chose to represent the Ironwood "tree" yes, it was supposed to be a tree but they put it on one that looked like a bush. Up the road I see a rider on a bike that looks very much like Steve Jewell's but he is past before I can see if anything else bore a strong resemblance. I don't even know if this was Steve's stomping ground or not.

The temperature is still in the lower sixties and I am a bit chilly but not bad. A wind is picking up and slows me to 10-12 mph most of the way up this road which actually climbs a lot more than one would think. By the time I am up to the top my bike computer says I have climbed over 700 feet already. I turn down the carefree hwy and not too far down the road am honked at again by the masterful mr. Dingus. Fortunately this would be our last encounter.

It is a fast ride down to the next turn and I am again crouching down into the aerobars as the headwinds climb into the upper 20's. I slowly climb up into the hills south of New River. I am looking for the pointy mountain that I know New River is located next too. I look for a long time and the wind forces me low. I hate climbing in aero bars. For Sale signs are blowing horizontal and some have blown off their mountings. At long last I see the hill which looks like a severed fish head with it's mouth pointing into the sky. Not too long after I am at the RoadRunner cafe.

The RoadRunner cafe reminds me of the Boars Nest from the Dukes of Hazzard. The lady that worked in the little shop inside was not anything like Daisy duke I must say. She was not wearing little tight shorts, which was good as she was a heavyset lady. Her voice had the hoarseness of a thousand cigarettes. She asked me how the wind was treating me and I told her my next stretch was downwind. When she learned I was riding up to Yarnell on the bike she was incredulous. Heading out to my bike I refill my bottle and look for a garbage can but can't find one. Back inside I find she is gone, and I eventually find a bucket on the porch which has some trash in it so I use it.

You might think that the fastest speed of the day would be descending Yarnell grade. Well, I have to say surprisingly it was over the next stretch down to Lake Pleasant. I can hear you now wondering where the big hill is heading down to lake pleasant. Well, there isn't one. It has a slight drop in elevation but not anything to write home about. I had a roaring tailwind pushing me at that speed. At 35 mph the air felt still but the bushes tossed and turned in a frenzy as I shot by. I would not drop below 30 mph over the next 10 miles and most of the way stayed above 35. 42 mph would be my top speed.

Of course this meant upon turning on Lake Pleasant road the crosswinds were fierce. Just before getting to the lake my cue sheet blew out and was gone. Fortunately I had a spare and the route was really simple for the next 100 miles so I wouldn't need to consult it for a while. The wind was ruthless as I started up the hill on the other side of Lake Pleasant and then for some reason died down a bit. No longer was I struggling to stay on the shoulder. The next stretch was a longish stretch into the middle of nowhere as I finished the climb out of Lake Pleasant. I found I could gain a bit of speed if I rode on the white stripe to get off of the bumpy asphalt. The only trouble was the traffic was annyoingly abundant today so I had to take the shoulder often crossing the rumble strip. I was grateful for that 28c tire on the back.

Turning up to Wickenburg (what kind of a name is that for a town anyway? I mean is it full of witches or something?) I am eager to arrive and have a nice big Burger King lunch. Halfway up the road I see a ghost bike off to the right marking a location where a cyclist met their demise at the hand of a careless driver. I have heard of them, never seen one though and it gives me pause.

A bit of a tangent here. Heading into Wickenburg I see a sign some rural gentlemen has put up saying people who vote for Obama are like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders. I won't say anything here about who you should vote for. I only say to study your candidates, both of them. Read their policies. Make your own decisions. Don't you dare decide you know enough about the candidates by listening to the propoganda either of them barf at each other. If you do, like millions of other Americans you are misusing your voting power and are essentially an enemy of democracy and a witless peon of their multi-million dollar marketing engine. Educate yourselves folks. I don't care who you vote for, just make sure they are what you think they are. Incidentally, one of them mentions the bicycle in their energy policy. I find this important as it is the most efficient vehicle man has invented to date in terms of units of energy to move a person from point a to point b. It should be considered as part of the solution in my mind.

Ok, enough rhetoric, on to Burger King and the big Daddy size club sandwich meal. I couldn't finish it fair readers. I had an inch of the sandwich left and had to throw it out as I was full after the super fry and the giant drink. I spent about 20 minutes at Burger King eating and reviewing the cue sheet (and getting my control card signed, can't forget that). Then I was out into the wind again. I was having to re-blistex my lips every hour or two the wind was so present. I figured I had about 3 hours to Yarnell with the speed I was able to keep in the wind and the climb and such. It was in here that I dug out the mp3 player as I figured I was bound to cross a vast wasteland of desert scenery. Not that I have anything against desert scenery, I had after all just ridden through 80 miles of it. I just needed some variety at this point.

About 4-5 miles out of congress I see the occasional reflection on a car window shining down from the side of the mountains about 10 miles ahead. A few miles out of Congress I can actually see white specs that are semi-trucks coming down the grade and making note of the time from when I see them reach the bottom of the grade to when they pass me 6 minutes later I figure I have around 5 miles to the grade. In congress, I opt to fill a bottle with gatorade. It is a warm afternoon and I still have a full bottle but one can never be too careful. I figure I have about an hours climb ahead of me if I keep 6 mph or so up the hill.

The hill is a constant 6% grade occasionaly going up to 7 and 8 % in a few stretches. At 100 miles into a ride it is a little more taxing than it otherwise would have been. Still, I find myself able to hold the effort level most of the way up the hill. My knee has been hurting since Congress and I am glad I have the 32 tooth cog on the back. I am able to spin up the hill although I find the hill pressing on my psyche as I turn the corner at the top and see more hill. Still, it is only a few more turns until the real top.

The store right at the top turns out to not be the one specified on the cue sheet so on into Yarnell proper I go. The grocery store the sheet specifies turns out to be closed as of 15 minutes ago. So back to the top of the hill I go. An eskimo pie and a scooby doo push up pop later I am ready to head into a descentalicious 25 miles to Globe. My goal is to be in Globe by 5pm. Which I make. I have decided that a giant milkshake is just the thing to get me to Phoenix and upon Jack and Diane's recommendation I stop at the Tastee Freeze, but there is no one out back with a hand between someones knees. I have to confess that I remembered it being a lot better than it was. The shake/malt had too much cherry syrup in it. Still, it is good energy and I almost finish the whole thing (it was a really big shake).

Off to Phoenix I go. My legs are starting to get fatigued now. My speed stays under 17-18 mph and slowly drops the further I get. Not too long after the turn to Lake Pleasant the sun sets creating surreal swirling colorful whisps in the clouds to the east. I stop to turn the lights on and then am off again. It seems like the road goes on forever. The darkness deepens and I plod along through the darkness. After a long time a stoplight is visible in the distance and upon passing it I am in darkness again with no further signs of civilization for some ways. As I near the next stoplight my back tire is squishy. I lean over the handlebars to get the weight off it and work to get to the light. I have no small backup light for working on flats other than the one attached to my handlebars so an overhead light simplifies things.

Their is a piece of wire from one of the thousands of tire shreds I had passed during the day. I eventually get it pulled out but that is not where the leak is and my respect for the tire goes up a bit. The wind howls as I listen for the leak. Incredibly enough I find the leak and patch it making sure there is nothing in the tire to cause it again and with a puff of co2 I am off once again. Soon I am into Phoenix proper and the streets are still way above the count I am looking for. I need 107th street and I am at 193rd. I pass Bell Road, Thunderbird, and still I go south. I am way past Union Hills and finally I see the convenience store just up from where I turn.

After getting my card signed and a milkshake drink I am off into the night, I turn and am once again in direct conflict with the wind. Wandering through the neighborhoods I am at Union Hills and begin the long slow push across town into the wind. I hold roughly 13 mph across town. A mile or two from the end there is one last hill to challenge me and then I am done. 16 hours after my start I have finished the journey I set out to make. I have accomplished something in the midst of so many weeks of rejection and failure during my job search. It feels good.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Much better

Ok, after Friday's really depressing post I though I would post something a little more positive. I headed out on a bike ride this morning to take my last paycheck down to the bank. I had a good ride. It was 54 degrees out and It was the first ride of the fall with leg warmers and a long sleeved jersey. I headed down power road to my bank which I discovered had moved. I looked for it around the new location for a long time but couldn't find it. After a brief consultation with my wife via cell phone I finally found it. It was closed. Even though almost everyone else in the free world has to work on Columbus day, bank workers get it off. As I did not have a pen I bought one at the local gas station and made my deposit in the night/holiday deposit box and was off for home. I had originally intended a ride of 18 miles or so but ended up with 27 as I rolled into our neighborhood.
Incidentally my depressed mood went into Saturday and was gone Saturday night. At this point I am confident I will find a job, I have several interviews coming up, and I may already have something which I am hoping to hear from soon. Anyway, I think my challenge now is keeping busy between interviews. In the meantime I am going to take a good bike ride every morning.

Friday, October 10, 2008

This is the end, my only friend, the end.....

This morning I head out onto the commute with heavy heart. This is the end. The last commute. The last day. No more to follow, at least at the present employer. I have ridden this route 3-4 times a week for the last 4 years and another 3 years at the other location. I will ride my bicycle to Inter-Tel no more. Emotions lap through my soul like sets of waves on a beach. Some nibbling away at the edge of the beach, and others washing far up the shore and washing everything away. I do not feel like riding. I do not feel like doing anything but I ride on. There are a number of people out this morning and they smile at me.

I wave back as I pass. Approaching the one light along the canal path I determine to hit the crosswalk button wanting to inflict a little irritation on drivers who have to stop and share my pain. On we proceed, moving through the cool of the morning. A cool morning that brings little solace as my emotions move from a desperate positivity to a feeling of numbness and a strong desire to lay down under the shade of a tree and cease activity. I know this feeling well from events which have taken me riding late into the night after full days of cycling, and the desire to stop everything and rest is nearly irresistable. Some rest leads to deep and dark places which I will not return from for a very long time if I succumb so on we press into the cool morning.

I pass downtown Chandler and press on to Inter-Tel where I place my bike in the rack for the last time. I don my shorts and shirt that I have kept in my jersey pocket. I discover that the back door security system is broken, and report this to the human resources lady as I turn in all my gear and get my severence paperwork. It is amazing how 10 years of service boils down to the following bit of soulless corporate sputum-

The on-going requirements within the organization have recently been reviewed, focusing on the necessity to achieve operational effectiveness. As a result of this review, decisions have been made that will have an impact within the organization. Accordingly your position has been identified as being eliminated effective October 10, 2008.

Sounds like someone used a layoff-o-matic word generator. I have determined that the key to an organization with soul depends entirely on if the founder is still around. The founder seems to be the soul of the organization. The founder cares about the organization and people usually. The hired gun of a CEO and his enterage of nosers that come after generally doesn't give a crap about anything other than numbers. Founders have a dream and a vision of what a corporation could be, a hired hand merely concentrates on a very narrow set of goals entirely centered on the impish whims of the stockholders. Dave Thomas died and Wendy's gets sold to Arby's, Walt Disney kicks out and enter Michael Eisner, Steve Mihaylo gets forced out of his office at Inter-Tel and wa la, a soulless entity. I bear no ill will, but am a little saddened at the changing of a corporate family, to a corporate group of employees. Well, all things in this world must eventually pass away I suppose, and I am grateful for the 10 years of comradeship and meaningfull employment I had. So, on to other things, yet I still I can't shake the mallaise.

So how about it guys? Is there a job out there for Dan and I?

At 8:45 I pack up my bike, I have a problem though. The shirt and shorts I can stuff into my jersey pockets, but what to do with the severence packet? I had originally intended to leave my lock on the rack like the last commuter that left did as a token of, well, something. Ok, it would have been an inconsiderate thing to leave for the facilities guy to deal with eventually but I ended up not doing that anyway. I used the lock to strap the packet to my Aero bars. I would not be heading straight home today. Though I did not want to ride, I needed to.

Off to the towers
Yes, I need a good climb. Chances are I would not be working on this end of the valley anymore so this would be my last chance to climb South Mountain for awhile. I really had to keep pushing. I don't think I have ever struggled so hard for an 80 mile ride. It seemed like everything hurt and I had absolutely zero motivation. But I kept pressing on.

Up into the park I rode. I found a surprising bit of strength for climbing the mountain itself. One guy passed me on the way up to the San Juan turn off but slowed down as soon as he passed me (and he wasn't carrying a change of clothes and a big lock). He turned at San Juan but I noticed him behind my climbing the mountain but he never caught up. I was amazed at my strength today. Everywhere else I had no will to move but for some reason I did good in the climbs. Topping out things brightened up.

Looking down at Mitel it seems like such a little thing in a sea of civilization. But a speck in the big picture. Somewhere down there is another speck that will be my new place of employment.

It was cool and windy at the top. A few people were up there enjoying the morning and I stopped for a minute to tell my wife that I would not be home by 11 AM as it was 11 right then. I estimated I would be home at 1:30. Heading down I felt good about things. I climbed the hill, and the descent was upon me. Outlooks brightened and the views opened out before me and the world was my opportunity.

I enjoyed the drop off of the radio tower summit and decided that today I would treat myself to a climb up to the dobbins lookout since it would be a long time until I came back up here and I had the energy at the time.

After this I turned around and started down the mountain to head for home. The closer I got to the valley, the more my spirit was reclaimed by the creeping morasse that plagued my soul earlier. It was a struggle to work my way back across the valley. The sun beat down and it seemed a lot hotter than 86 degrees. Still I turned pedal after pedal. I did not want to be biking, I did not want to be doing anything, yet still I turned the pedals round one at a time. Thoughts rolled around, in repetition like my feet, going up, going down. It seemed forever. Eventually I did get back though. I think tonight I will enjoy the time with my kids and we will go camping. Anything to distract me at this point.

This moment will pass. All do eventually, that is why they are called moments. A moment can seem like a long time though when the moment is unpleasant. Still, nothing lasts forever, and I can wait this out. If you don't stay on the bike, you will never get to the end of the ride.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Still of the morning

There are quite a few cars out at 4:15 in the morning. On any given Saturday the streets would be deserted but not on Friday. There are numerous poor souls whose employment shakes them out of bed in the predawn hours. In fact, I buy some batteries from one of them at a 24 hour walgreens as my light has gotten a little dim as of late and I don't want to descend with a weak light. I had originally intended to do Mesa, Florence, Coolidge, Chandler but yesterday afternoon they informed me I had a phone interview today at 2 so I figured I would work at home today to have a better environment for interviewing. That being said they just rescheduled again!
Heading out of Apache Junction the traffic has stopped, there is but a lake and an old stagecoach stop turned tourist trap call Tortilla Flat out here. The desert is enshrouded in darkness serenaded by the hum of a million crickets. Orion is spread out in the sky above and the big dipper is at an extreme angle. A headwind turns into a mild tailwind/crosswind as the climbing starts in earnest. Since I couldn't go long today, I chose to go high. I need all the climbing I can get into my legs before Mt. Lemmon next month. 5000 feet this morning should do the trick I think.
On up into the darkness I look back on the city lights far off on the horizon as I crest the top and head down the other side of the pass down into the canyon. Temperatures are perfect this morning. Descents aren't too chilly, climbs aren't too hot. The temperature is just above 70 degrees. Soon I am at Canyon Lake and the light on the horizon is noticeably brighter. As I pass the lake I deem I can see good enough and shut down my light. There is no traffic out here and it is not that important to have a "be seen" light.
As dawn starts fighting the darkness in earnest I pass by Tortilla flat, hoping to be up the hill before the sun is. In the end we tied. Wanting the whole enchilada I descend and start up again. There are a few motorcycles out now that the sun is up. This is a real popular road with them as it is very curvy. On one day I saw a rider scrape his knee on the pavement at around 40-50 mph he rounded the corner so fast. He had knee pads on though, all told it impressed me he had enough grip on this road to pull it off. Personally, with a cliff under every outside curve, I would not like to gamble on slipping. I worry a bit just descending on my bicycle on some of those corners, you just kind of stare out into space as you whip around the corner and are heading back into the next nook in the hill.
All too soon I am back to the end of the pavement. The hill seems to be taking me around 40 minutes a go these days. With the sun striving to escape the horizon I am off to home to login before 9:30 so I can at least claim I was logged in. There is not a lot for me to do at work these days with my last day next week. I have mixed feelings. I cleared out my cube yesterday and I was amazed how much history you collect after 10 years at a place. I actually had a few scraps of paper from the very beginning amusingly enough. It is also a bit nerve wracking knowing the people you have interviewed with are discussing your fate in their boardrooms, web conferencing with other staff across the country, putting a value on you which they will use to determine if you are good enough for them, or useless dross to be cast aside without a second thought. I can't really blame them as that is what my company did in essence.
There is a smaller company expressing interest in me and I am thinking I may go with them if they will have me. I think in a small business loyalty is more valued. Loyalty seems to be dead in the corporate world these days. Companies demand loyalty of their employess but are only loyal to their stockholders in return, nevermind that some of them have held stocks far shorter than some have been employed. It is difficult to not get bitter. Still, a large corporation by definition, is an organization established for the very purpose of making sure no one has liability, or responsibility in the end. So , it is a souless entity, run by faceless graduates from heartless business schools across the country. Commiting no crime, but protecting the interest of the Stock Holders.
But I digress, where was I? Ah, a headwind. I have a headwind descending into Apache Junction. The silver lining is it is downhill. The one cyclist I saw passes me in here yet I am still 40 minutes ahead of him. He did not do a repeat on the big hill in the back. Turning I increase my speed noticeably as I catch the wind at an angle coming from the back now. I speed across Apache Junction. I don't know if I am faster today than last Saturday but I sure feel stronger. I wind through the streets familiar near my home and then I am in the driveway and I have indeed beaten my best time for a solo with a repeat. I have climbed 5000 feet, ridden 71 miles and returned in 5 hours and 2 minutes, a similar time to last time but I added an extra mile on so indeed I am faster this week. What will the day, or the coming week bring? Who knows, but I at least accomplished something this morning. I just wish I could challenge some of those executives out there to a little hill climb contest. :)