Sunday, December 19, 2010

Morning Evening Rides

Four Peaks as the misty morning burns off.

I got two rides in on Saturday plus I got a floor mounted bike rack built so my wife can get the bikes out occasionally.  It was a very productive day.  I missed the Brumbys because I woke up late but still managed to get 40 miles in out on the wet roads.  It stopped raining right as I got out of the garage.

 Fountain Hills

Mountains are shrouded in mist and bicycle tires hiss slightly as they kick water up off of the road.  It's a cool morning but the windvest is soon discarded as the hills come.  The bike will need cleaning but that is a small toll compared to the beauty of a cool wet morning in the desert.  I can't give it all I have got as strength will need to be saved for the evening ride with the kids,  especially if we use the trail a bike.

 Microwave tower above Las Sendas

Still,  I elect to throw a climb to the top of Las Sendas in to clock me in at 1800 feet of climbing and take the ride up to 40 miles.  I'm late.  Fortunately it's not a morning where anyone cares about that.  My wife is off on errands and the kids are glued to the computer watching tv.  I am glad I took the extra time.

Your's truly.

After a busy day, as night falls, my boys remind me of my promise to ride.  My daughter decides to accompany my wife going out to help my Mom with her shopping.  It's just me and the boys.  Surprisingly there are long stretches where I felt like I was taking a nice leisurely ride at a comfortable pace.  Not a slow pace,  a comfortable pace... for me.  For an 8 year old that's a pretty good pace.  I think the boys are getting stronger.  I keep telling them night riding gets really cool when you get out of the city and up on the hill.  Sadly we don't have time, but we do get a bit of darkness and views of the city lights heading down McKellips.  After a dinner at Sonic it is a really cold ride home.  Next time we'll bring wind breakers.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Midnight Mountain Mists

Thought I'd throw this picture up from Thursday night.  Missed my ride in the morning by sleeping in, so after the kids were down, I snuck out for a misty midnight snack.  Climbed up the back of Las Sendas to Hawes and snapped a picture and then came home.  I love riding late at night, when all the cars are tucked in for their long winter naps with visions of fuzzy dice dancing in their heads.  When the roads are bare and open for a lone cyclist to ride in smooth silence along good asphalt above the lights of the city that sleeps around 10:30 or a little after.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Breakfast Ride with Two Wheel Jones

The Sun is up on the Superstitions

 Saturday would be my first group ride in many months.  It was the Two Wheel Jones holiday breakfast ride (they are a local bike shop and serve one incredible breakfast).  I got out of the house late but managed to get there right at 7.  I had to gather up some of my stuff before I left the house and pump up my tires with the pump that my kids broke the gauge on (finger checking tends to underfill I find but it's better than overfilling).

The route first went up to the shadows of the Flat Iron (Westernmost peak in the Superstition mountains). 

Then down into the rollers descending into Apache Jct. and also to the rest stop at the notorious "Dash In"  gas station on the Apache Trail.

The middle hill

There are three out and back hills that go up to the Goldfield mountains that the route follows to get the climbing up to just shy of 1000'.  A lot of folks turned around before the top to stay with the pack.  I had no pretensions of holding the pack at this point so I climbed them all.

 Yours truly in front of Usery Mountain

In the end,  they were still just setting up breakfast when I got there.  I sat for a minute under one of the heaters and had a breakfast burrito.  Then I stuffed a cinamon roll in my jersey pocket and headed home so my wife could get her day started.  I guess I am not much of Socializer.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tour de Tucson, the two faces of Tucson cycling.


El Tour was absolutely awesome with one ugly exception.  First things first though, for an 8 year old 40 miles may as well be 100.  They have a shorter attention span for one thing.  Then there is the fact that finding a bike with usable gearing in a real event for kid's that size is really hard, although it is getting easier.  Fuji appears to be offering roadbikes in that size now without the suspension forks like my kids have.  I am quite satisfied with the lads now that all is said and done.  There were lows and highs but surprisingly few lows actually.

The expo is always fun, though my boys attention span wasn't quite up to it.  Josh lost his T-Shirt somewhere and we had to go get another one, bless the good folks at PBAA who wouldn't let me pay for another one but made him promise not to lose this one.  Despite my best efforts the boys were too jazzed to get to bed early but did eventually drift off.

The one thing I really like about the shorter distances is being able to see the 109 milers and the peloton cruise by in the morning.  The boys opted to stay in the nice warm hotel room but I went out and watched.  I made the unfortunate discovery the night before that the tape mechanism on my video camera was thrashed and I would be doomed to what I could get onto the SD card in lower resolution and 10 second chunks.  It still worked out alright though as you can see in the video at the bottom.  It's always a rush to see the pro's cruise by as a giant mass ready to consume all before it.

I spent the morning getting everything ready and preparing,  it still seemed like we waited forever for 10:30 to roll around so we could meet the guy I offered to give a lift to the 40 mile start, and head up there.  I don't like starting a ride that late in the day but I understand the safety aspect of waiting for the faster groups to pass before launching all the guys riding at lower levels out onto the course.  It was tough to keep the boys contained and make them sit down for a peanut butter sandwich before heading over to the start line.

Despite being only a forty mile event there were nearly 1200 people there and it was an impressive throng.  We lined up in back and there were several youthful riders and groups back there.  The boys were funny once we finally were able to start several minutes after the first guys went out.  We started off at a walk and the boys kept trying to get into their toe clips but ended up walking some more.  At long last we were clipped in and picking up speed.  I was pleased the boys climbed the first hills strongly and even were passing people.  I constantly had to remind them about proper passing etiquette but I suppose that is par for the course with 8 year olds.

I had forgotten most of the hills along Rancho Vistoso  but the boys were patient with me and didn't get upset with my constant "You know,  I think that this is the last hill before our long downhill stretch" comments.  I even got a chance to shoot some video once the group broke up a bit.  It was still a pretty steady stream of riders though,  I think there was only one time that we really were on our own for a mile or so.

Heading down Moore my elder son pulled ahead and so on Thorneydale, advising my younger son to stay to the right, and keep riding until he saw me,  I bolted off to catch the eldest and make him wait.  I finally got him sighted and was pushing hard to catch up at 25 mph+ to catch him when all of a sudden I am heading into the side of a large grey dually pickup driven by a sailor talking Wilford Brimley type, as I go up onto my front tire and vear sideways out into the lane.   He is dropping F-Words a dozen a sentence on me when I comment on his driving skills out of pure "you almost killed me" adrenaline.  Suddenly,  I am surrounded by cyclists swooping in for the attack and Wilford informs them what he thinks of El Tour in similar fashion and spouts off about having to feed his calves up the road.  He begins to get out of the truck,  like some old fat guy is going to take on 1000 fit cyclists.  no offense to old fat guys of course,  I just don't like the vocal ones of this sort that perhaps have a bit too much attitude for their own good.  Even if they look like kindly old grandpas.  Cooler heads prevailed of course but I left with the parting comment of having to take care of my babies too and caught Joseph.  Thank goodness he made it past this weed of a human being alive.   I suppose I have now finally seen the darker side of the Tucson cycling scene.

Getting ahead of the younger one gave me an opportunity to get some more video of course so that was the bright side of having to speed ahead.  Going down Tangerine the boys hooked up with a 10 year old kid from eastern Arizona and became fast friends.  We'd meet his family when they caught up just as we were leaving the rest stop at the bottom.  I filled up everybody's bottles and grabbed a cookie while the boys were taking care of the results of their appropriate hydration. 

Heading around Airline road,  I make the observation that the guy on the back of this year's tour  jersey has his shorts right over the middle pocket.  It's a terrible location for a banana.  Later I saw a guy with his windbreaker stuffed back there and that was bad too, looking like he actually won a race with a full set of depends on.  Glad I didn't buy it this year.  Funny no one caught that before it got into production.

The kids shot up rattlesnake pass like it was nothing, passing several walkers.  I don't blame the walkers, this is a really hard part of the ride once you are at 90 miles and the headwinds are really taking their toll.  Just before the turn onto Silverbell the lads stop for a drink, and a bunch of team in training lady's have me take their picture.  After cycling between 3 or 4 cameras I turn around and the kids are gone.  Apparently they ran out of patience.  I catch them fairly quickly as they are stopped at the intersection waiting for the officer to wave them through.

The boys would each go through a low point between here and the end but a quick bribe of candy bars with a strong finish motivates them.  My older son pulled ahead on the frontage road and I let him go.  If we hadn't  held him back he probably would have finished under 4 hours easily.  As is he ended up at 4:07 and my youngest came in 4 minutes later.  The evening was fast approaching and it was really pleasant sitting on the grass waiting out the hour until the shuttle came to pick us up.  Fortunately the good folks at the bike check said they would hold our bikes out when they packed up all the unclaimed bikes at 6 to be claimed on Monday morning.   We ended up finally picking up the bikes around 7:30 and after having the local raving derelict inform my boys about wishing on a star and having Santa give them anything they wanted we were off.  I found his instructions a little ironic as it was obvious he either had some disappointed wishes, or else he didn't aim too high.

We made a quick stop along the frontage road so I could change out of my cycling clothes and let my son jettison some unnecessary waste which he stepped in..... barefoot... when my other son pushed him.  He had to smell his brother all the way home so I guess justice was served although unfortunately I also paid.  All in all it was pretty close to a perfect day despite a few unpleasantries.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

They're ready.

The last picture I showed you of this spot would have had those boys up to their chins in water.  It is late fall in the desert and the great thirst of the valley below is somewhat abated and the river is held back to store water for next summer.  My sons are still not too disappointed.  Our turnaround today has them getting distracted by some guys on the shore catching little guppies with nets and my boys decide that they must do it too.  As this was our turnaround I should probably fill in the rest of the ride.

Today had the grand distinction of being the last Saturday before El Tour de Tucson.  If we were doing one of the longer distances we probably would have slacked off a little this week but since we are doing the 40 I thought it would be good to get another 30ish mile ride in with some moderate climbing.  We mixed it up this week by adding mileage on both ends of our loop.  We started at Red Mountain Park to get us a few extra miles at the start and end of the ride,  and would add a brisk jaunt through the rollers east on the Bush Highway along those wonderful new stimulus shoulders.  Mmmmm Stimulus shoulders.  It didn't help my friends keep their house,  but boy it sure put some nice shoulders on our beloved Bush Highway.

So I had to coax my son with ADHD up the first long hill a bit (he gets a little intimidated at the beginning of these long rides) but after we got over the top he got into it.   My other son suddenly decided he was scared of going fast and so we descended the backside of Usery pass at a tepid 17-20 mph. 

Turning right at four corners was a new thing for them as was the wonderful world of rollers.  I was much relieved to find my son that was scared apparently had no qualms about zooming down one side of a gully so he could zoom up the other side.  They handled the rollers amazingly well.  They didn't even give me too much whining around the final several corners before we got to the "Water Users"  area where Salt River Rec puts the tubers in the river during the summer.

This was our destination today mainly because it happened to be where those wonderful stimulus shoulders stopped,  but the fact it had a cool little spot to go down to the river didn't hurt either.  The boys needed something to break the ride up a bit and this did quite well.

We did have a moment or two on the way back,  particularly when after a good long ride we were back at four corners again and they realized we still had all that way to go to get to Kong.  I finally got the youngest to drink his gatorade (always feed a grumpy mood in ultra cycling,  figured it would work here too).  Pretty soon we were bombing down little Kong and they were getting jazzed about climbing Kong.  The youngest did it today and the oldest had to walk a bit but I figured that was OK.  It's tough to climb a steep hill like that at the end of a tough ride.

They ended up with 30 miles with over 1000 feet of climbing.  Most of the 40 mile El Tour route is downhill or fairly flat so I think they will finish strong.   Excitement will help a lot I am sure.  In any case, they are ready and so am I!  I just hope they don't run out of shirts for us folks that can't get down to the expo before Friday afternoon (grumble grumble,  a few years back, despite having registered 6 months previously they ran out, meaning that the folks that registered late got my shirt!  They did eventually mail me one though).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Friends in Low Places

Riding up Ellsworth the other day I found a little,  well,  I guess he wasn't that little by snake standards, fella feeling a little left out in the cold on the side of the road.  Knowing what it was like myself to recieve the cold shoulder once in awhile I determined I could not leave this poor guy all alone in a cruel cold world.  It would be cold blooded indeed.  Of course,  a person in bicycle clothes is not necessarily dressed to be a snake handler,  still I kept my cool.  While my friend chilled out I searched the bushes for a long stick to help our friend cool his heals in a safer place.  Having found a stick I gently prodded it under my friend hoping he wouldn't lose his cool and freak out.  Fortunately he was out cold and I threw him into the bushes to sleep it off.

I guess Snakes just don't do so hot when it is 45 degrees out despite what Midnight Oil said about the western desert (or perhaps they meant celsius).  For that matter,  without a wind vest and full finger gloves,  neither do I.  The weather man said low 50's.  Apparently his definition of low fifties and my thermometer's definition differ.  Anyway,  it was a chilly morning.  Aside from the snake it was actually a very smooth and steady ride around the foothills of Usery Mtn.  I opted not to climb up to McDowell today since time was short.  It was a good ride albeit a little underdressed.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Rescuing the motorcycle with the bike.

My personal cycling life has been in a severe depression the last few months. Probably since my Dad Died I think. Don't get me wrong, I have loved doing the rides with my sons, and I think I am getting closer to finding good ways to motivate my oldest daughter without getting really frustrated from the whining. One of the greatest regrets of my life is not keeping up on cycling with her and I don't think it is too late, but it will be a hard road to getting her in shape and excited to cycle again. That's not what this post is about though.

I have been in a bicycle depression. I have not been commuting by bike, I have not been able to train since riding with my kids is not fast enough to challenge me unless I am towing my youngest on the trail a bike. I maintained my commitment to support the August Brevet but I did not want to be there. Whether it is jealousy or something else, I kind of resent that whole deal as it is not a part of my life right now and it feels like there is a piece missing. I have been suffering a bit feeling that my fitness is falling. Stumbling upon a youtube video that showed me topping the hill on Shea during the Tour de Phoenix pains me as I know I was about as close as you can get to Platinum shape without being platinum. My time would have got me platinum last year. At the time I knew it would be my last hurrah for awhile in the back of my head.
I believe it is worth it in the long run to spend the time getting my kids up to speed on cycling and that I am investing in something that will pay off big in the long run. It hurts right now to miss that other part of me though. I do think I am slowly getting back a bit. I rode my bike to vote earlier this week, and I also rode my bike to pick up my motorcycle where I had left it after I fixed the flat our van had and drove it home (the bike rack I built for the Motorcycle needs a few refinements but it works so far). I am starting to get motivated to squeeze in some bicycle time for me when I can. I think I am adjusting at long last and I do not resent my bicycle anymore.

I got a bit of a chance to escape this morning though as the boys need a rest day before Saturday (at least that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it). I asked my wife if she could get the kids to school while I take an hour ride and she said yes. So, after I downed a few pieces of toast and a glass of water, I tucked a few CO2 cartridges and my lipstick pump (my backup, too small to get the tire to full pressure but enough to get me out of a situation) in my seatpack, pumped up the tires, searched for my sunglasses, remembered to put my contacts in, strapped my helmet on, and left. Of course I was not out the door when I wanted too but seeing as I was at work by a quarter after nine it worked out.

It has been weeks, if not months, since I was able to open up the engine and let loose. By the time I was out of the neighborhood I was steaming along like a charger with a lion at his heels. Gingerly I took the turn lanes and worked my way up towards Usery mountain. I was going uphill but stayed above 15mph. I was a spirit set free from a thousand nights of darkness. I could feel my breath start to accelerate the further I got up the hill but I did not slow, I had a moment of freedom and was not going to squander a second. I could ride slow with the kids and would get more of that than I needed, now was the time to release, to push the envelope, to see what was lying dormant beneath weeks of repression and depression.

Turning up towards the pass I move in front of a racer in full kit further down the road. knowing I am a cyclist on the physical rocks, I expect him to blow by me but I wait, and wait, and after a surprisingly long time he passes me before we get to the stoplight where I catch him again. He turns. I am hurting but I hit the hill and though I slow somewhat I am still thrusting every last ounce I have into it.

I turn down McDowell and force myself along with the same intensity as I accelerate up to 30mph. Halfway down the hill I fly by the racer who is spinning down the hill, likely resting between intervals. I don't care, I am riding my own ride and what a ride it is. I have a tailwind but the wind is strong in my face as I pedal down the hill. Turning on to Power I find I am at 17.6 mph for an average and I know I can push it over 18 before I get home.

I squeeze the speed out despite the stoplights which are determined to box me back up. I am cruising at 25 mph between lights and as I pull into our neighborhood I have averaged 18.3 mph having climbed 450 feet over 16 miles. Were I to be able to sustain that I would have gold at El Tour, but I have not trained the distance, nor is it my goal at this time. I am content. I will ride El Tour, albeit 40 miles, but it will not be for me but for my sons and their goals. I will enjoy it. I am greatly relieved to know I have not lost everything for my sacrifices. Things are well today. Someday it will likely be my sons and daughter pulling me.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pain on the Backside or Choose your Poison

yep,  the start is the easy part.

Once upon a time, I was an overweight programmer with a little used Mountain bike and a desire to make a change.  It started with lunchtime visits to the gym in the basement where I worked and eventually graduated from the excersize bike to the mountain bike and then one day I thought I would stop by the old bicycle shop on main street which was full of old bikes in the offhand chance they might have a road bike.  There was a 1980's era Centurian Lemans in it that was priced at $100 and I bought it.  My last 10 speed was one I found in a snowbank and this one was much better than that as it had index shifting, although it still had the downtube shifters.  Anyway, to cut to the chase,  that Centurian was the first bike I began to seriously roadbike on.

It was on that bike that I road the backside of Usery Pass for the first time.  It was a 12 speed and was not geared for hills but I made do.  I remember slaving up the backside of Usery pass and thinking that the hill went on forever as I slowly made my way up the grade that did not look as steep as it felt.  I remember getting to the turn around the nob and thinking I was at the top and then dealing with the disappointment of finding more hill behind it,  and then after another corner or two, the victory of cresting the hill and the chance to catch my breath.

Saturday I got to introduce my Son's to this great experience since the winds favored riding the loop clockwise.  I got to hear their frustration at the hill when they were not quite halfway up.  I got to push my older son in an attempt to catch up with my younger one who had decided in his anger at the hill to ride faster.  I got a passing roadie to ask him to wait for us and the boys got a break to get a drink and remuster the resolve.  This was just above the parking area for the area the mountain bike community calls 'NRA'.  At this point the hill is pretty much in the bag as it slowly gets less steep from there.  The boys for some reason did not believe this.  They only saw more hill and did not notice that they were not breathing as heavy, or riding faster.  Near the last corner my youngest just about stopped and wouldn't go on but he pressed on around the corner and got to taste the victory and enjoy the slow descent on the other side thanks to the headwind.

I'll take a headwind going down a hill anyday as opposed to on the flats.   The boys did just fine.  We managed to get an extra mile and a half in today.  I was hoping we would get more but we were extremely busy this Saturday.  Next Saturday we'll try and get around 25 miles in, and the Saturday after, I hope I can get them up to 30 and then we'll call it good and head off to El Tour the following Saturday.  I got the day off so I think  we're going to go down the day before and I'll show them Mt. Lemmon,  and then, perhaps we will actually make it to the Bike Expo/Registration before the last 20 minutes when everyone is putting everything away unlike just about every other year I have ridden it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

They Conquered Kong.

Good morning good readers.   The saga of our quest for El Tour de Tucson's 40 mile ride continues with a few new twists!  It's funny how there really is no good time to train sometimes.  Our Saturday today has the kids doing something throughout the day.  Next week will be just as bad for me.  So the early bird must get the worm before he gets too busy.

The boys were amazingly easy to wake up just before dawn.  Usually during the week it is really tough to get them up.  We had a really busy time of it getting everything together and also installing one of my speedometers on my youngest son's bike.  I promised him I would do  it in the hopes it would motivate him.  It did mostly.

When we finally got to Walgreens it was around 7 and I knew we would need to do this loop in under 2 hours if we were to get my boys to their first gig this morning at the church.  I kind of figured at this point the chances of being late were pretty high but moved forward hoping it would work out.

My youngest son took great relish in calling out how far we had gone as we began our 6 mile climb up to Usery Pass.  I am proud to say we stopped a lot less this time and there was zero whining.  We saw several packs of riders cruise through as we neared the top of the pass one guy smiled and made a crack about child abuse which was funny because they were a lot more jazzed this week.

Near the top my youngest gave me his coat again.  Not too long after I snapped the above picture I dropped his coat.  I told them to keep going (since they were only going about 20 mph I figured I'd catch up quick).  After retrieving the coat I peddled like a madman and had almost caught them when my pump came loose.  So,  after retrieving the pump, I peddled like a maniac again,  and this time I caught up much to my son's amazement.

 My oldest son conquers King Kong

We didn't have a glorious tailwind this week on the back side unfortunately.   Still the boys did good as they were looking forward to dropping down Little Kong.  We managed about 10-12 mph most of the way and stopped at the bottom of big Kong to shift them into their granny gears and down some cookies and gatorade.  Then we attacked the hill (which holds 9% for a good stretch).  I told the boys to go as far as they could and they could walk from there.

My first son was a ways ahead of us when I started out with the younger one.  I told him I'd be happy if they made it past the stop sign since that's where the first one stopped to walk last week.   I was amazed to see my boy ahead pass the stop sign and keep pushing strongly up the hill.  I talked to my nearest son about setting intermediate goals on this hill.  Mentally telling yourself you'll make it to the stop sign,  then the next power pole,  then the speed limit sign,  and after that..... the top.  I stared on in amazement as they passed each mark and kept going.  Just before the top we caught the front son and I was just able to get far enough ahead of him to snap a picture as he hit the canal bridge at the top.  But wait,  there's more.

I kept up with the congratulations and atta boys as we moved down the road and then a few of the riders that had been approaching from behind caught up to us and asked me how old they were.  I confess I about burst my jersey zipper with pride as I said they were 8.  This led to an interesting conversation.  Turns out one of them was a cycling coach and had a junior cycling team.  He said the age cutoff was 10 years old for racing but they were welcome to come train with them if they wanted to in the meantime.  Interesting...  I might have to mull that one over.  My only issue is we don't ride on Sundays and a lot of races are on Sunday.  I guess we have a few years before we have to worry about that though huh? 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The boys climb the pass...

 The boys ascending the hinterlands 

There is a pretty standard training ride around here that is well loved among roadies.   I have included it in a number of blogs.  I've ridden it with scouts,  I've ridden it in the pouring rain, I've ridden it in the dead of night, I've ridden it in the raging winds, and I've gotten heat exhaustion on it in the steaming dregs of summer.  Until today though I have never ridden it with my sons.  A few weeks back we nibbled at the skirts of the frontside of Usery and since then I have speculated whether or not my boys could in fact make the whole loop without a catastrophic tantrum born out of boredom and exhaustion or even a full stop due to a complete inability to keep forward momentum.  So,  can a pair of 8 year olds do the usery loop?

 Proof Positive, a sign, a thirsty boy, and a smiling Dad.

Seeing as some have finished the El Tour De Phoenix short course in the past it must be possible.   I figured we drive to the Walgreens outside of Las Sendas and do the mini-loop which everyone knows and loves.  As we pulled up there were three or four other sets of cyclists getting ready to go Mountain Biking.  Seeing as one of my boys had slicks on (and the other one got his in the mail when we got home), mountain biking was not an option today.  The boys were to get their first taste of a big hill.  Well,  ok so it's only a 6 mile gradual climb of 600 feet, it's still a daunting task for an 8 year old.  Every few miles they would stop for a drink (I have no issues for them stopping for drinks since they don't ride so well with one hand yet).  Towards the top they got a little discouraged and I had to keep helping them along.  The top of Usery plays mind games with you as it has a bunch of false tops.  I am pleased to say that after stopping to take a picture they made it to the top and I shifted them into their big rings on the front.

 Not ANOTHER picture Dad!

I didn't have the heart to tell them that 20-22 mph wasn't that fast going down the backside because we had a headwind.  They really didn't care,  they just had a ball rounding the knob at the top of the hill and then gazing in awe and wonder at the valley far below and asking me if we were going ALL the way down THERE? 

 Granite Reef on the Salt River, w Red Mountain behind

I found it highly amusing that after we turned the corner we were going almost as fast as we had come down the backside because of a wonderful tailwind that blew us along down the bush highway to Granite Reef where we would stop for their final "airhead" break before they would attack Kong.  We actually hit 26 mph heading down little kong into the river bottom.  My son's say that was their favorite part.

The woods are long and dark and deep but.......

Both of them had to hike a bike Kong (which I had planned on).  I was pleased to see my one son made it 3/4 of the way and he only stopped as his chain came off.  My other son ended up climbing about half of the hill.   Just between you and me,  that's a bit better than I did the first time I tried to climb it.
 Dig that stylish jersey.

Final damage?  We went 17.3 miles, climbed 870 feet, in about an hour and forty minutes of riding time (we did stop a bit though and ended up at around 2 hours elapsed time).  Not bad for 8 year olds.  I think they will do fine on the 40 mile route at el Tour.  The hills they climbed today are much worse than anything on that section.   Maybe I should volunteer for bike patrol?  I am a bit of a crossroads.  I don't want to jeopardize my son's finishing but we all know I will end up stopping to help people anyway so I'm thinking of riding as bike patrol officially but I'm still on the fence.  What do ya'all think?  Should I just enjoy this event with my sons, or should I try and do 2 things at once?

Guess who got new gloves this morning?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Start of El Tour training rides.....

kids after the first "long"  ride of training (I told him his shirt was on backwards but he didn't care)

So, it might have been apparent to you that I have laid off the blog a bit lately.  Much of this is due to the fact that I haven't biked a whole lot, and it's a bit of a strange thing pulling off of so much riding and refocusing.  I've decided to slow down a bit and ride more with my kids.  Life is too short and though it may sound blasphemous,  I don't think too many people will remember me for all the huge rides I did,  but my kids will remember me for all the kids rides we did.

You may recall that I said I signed them up for the 35 mile version of El Tour this year.  Well,  they upped it to 40 miles.  This has caused me a little concern and brough up the need for a little more thought on how one get's his 8 year old boys to ride 40 miles (my daughter has a standing engagement on that day so she won't be joining us).   I have devised a training plan.  The key is that it can't suck all the joy out of bike riding for the boys.

So, the plan today was to ride 12-13 miles for a starter ride in a longish range for an 8 year old (and a 6 year old on a trail-a-bike but I was towing her so she was just doing backside training).   As we prepared to go out the door by son with ADHD had a coniption about how boring it was going to be.  I was between a rock and a hard place but then I remembered he loved to work with music going on and I offered to let him put my cell phone in his back pocket and let it play tunes for all of us.  This did the trick.  In fact, I found myself getting a pretty good workout pulling my daughter and trying to keep up with him.

My other son, despite my advice,  did not eat enough before we headed out and got hungry about the time we got 4 miles out.  The plan then became to ride to Sonic and back (with a little bit of a detour on the way back).  I am proud to say they made it to Sonic,  and they also made it back and had energy to spare.  We got 11.65 miles in and I wish I had brought my bike computer so I could have seen the average speed.   They climbed the gradual uphill very well.  The El Tour route will be downhill mostly for the first half,  I just have to get them so they can churn those last 20 miles out.  We have 9 weeks,  I think we can make cyclists out of them yet.  I am hoping we can finish in 4 hours or less but I am not going to push them too hard.  If we can get the miles in I will be happy.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

High Country Brevet and some Down Time

That's one small step for Paul, and one giant bill for his insurance company.....

Somewhere down below me, there are a bunch of riders on a brevet.  How do I know?  Well,  I started them off.  I'd thought the ride started at 7 so it was good I arrived an hour early as it started at 6 so I was a bit sheepish and apologised and got everyone off by 6 after 6.  I waited at the first control for them and then was off to go bike Sunrise Ski Area with my sons.  I didn't ride the day before this this year.  My Dad dieing has shifted my priorities a bit lately and I decided I needed time with my sons.  Not dissing shiny little metals or anything but, I think right now I have more important things to concentrate on, so I am working on bringing my kids into cycling more.  Since no one makes an affordable road bike for 8 year olds I have been forced to get them mountain bikes and as such, I figured they'd be OK at Sunrise.  I've included pictures from the brevet at the bottom.

All I said was "Smile and say 'We're all gonna die!'"

My older son thinks the ski lift is boring having ridden it with me awhile back.  My younger son thinks it's the coolest thing since sliced bread (and we all know how cool sliced bread is).   They both are not bored when we get to the top.  In fact, the younger one crashes before we even get around the first corner due to loose gravel and he is the one that's a little more skilled at these things.  Needless to say they are both a little freaked out as we start down the road which is pretty steep.  I keep having to talk my older son through things and I get more than a little frustrated at his negative attitude but I stop take a deep breath and keep working on it.  An offer of a blizzard at Dairy Queen if he soldiers through this works wonders and he has found new courage and the folks riding on the lift above our heads can now stop thinking I am the devil Dad as my son has stopped wailing and has started working on getting this downhill thing going.

The boys take on a rocky section of road

I have to admit,  the road was steep and was also on the steep side of a mountain.  I guess most people would freak out a little.  They did good though.  In fact,  they did so good that they had a good time by the time we got to the bottom and I am afraid I got a little too confident in their abilities and made a rather bad mistake.  When we went back up to the top I decided we could try the Fungus trail.  It was marked beginner green so I figured it would be doable.  Beginner doesn't really mean mountain bike beginner.  It pretty much means a person who isn't super good.  I didn't have problems with it but it is not as easy as it is made out to be I think.  Granted,  it's likely boring for the thrill seeking crowd out there but it's a pretty good terror to real beginners I found out.

My younger and more adventuresome son recovering from a most impressive crash.

I told my boys to walk the first few switchbacks and I'd meet them at the bottom of them.  Just as I got to where I was going to wait I heard a yell behind me and turned just in time to see my son fly through the air and go over his bars and down to the ground in an unhealthy melding of man and machine.  He usually cries until you give him a hug but this time he was hurt worse.  I was a little concerned he might have broken his leg but when I touched the other side of where it hurt he didn't have any pain.  In the end he just had a pretty healthy bruise and a whole load of shattered confidence.  In fact,  both boys mostly walked the trail from here on down.

A very frustrated son pushing his bike down the Fungus trail.

It took us forever to get down, occasionally someone would come riding through and give the boys encouragement (and if your reading,  thank you thank you thank you).  Eventually we got through to the fire road again and I managed to get the boys down.  My older son rode way ahead and ended up taking a wrong turn but I knew his tire tracks so we followed him to the wrong lodge where we could make our way back to the car in the lower lot.   Once we were in the car all was well again.  Mental note to self, less is sometimes better. 

The brevet riders would find similar suffering though.  The road to the resort was being repaved and so was not paved at all.  To make matters worse they got creamed for most of the late afternoon with wicked heavy rain.   I have to say if you are not expecting dirt,  it could hamper your ability to enjoy the beautiful ride back into the ski area.  I hope it wasn't too awful for the riders.  Sounds like some didn't have a problem and some did.  I suppose it is one of those glass half full things.

Patrick and co. arrive for a signature.

The Breakfast Club

Joey working to catch the breakfast club

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Under the Milky Way....

Saguaro Moon

Aug 13 is a day I'd been looking forward to all week.  I made sure to get everything ready when I left in the morning so I'd have it after work and I could go straight to McDowell Mtn regional park for the McDowell Mtn Moonlight ride on the Pemberton trail.  There were rumors of a barbeque put on by the Slippery Pig Bike shop with brats and other tasty treats at the end of the ride.  The start time was 7:30 and everyone had to be off the trail by 9:30.  These times would be harder than I thought to meet.

First thing I discovered was my back tire was flat, but since I was late to work I figured I'd just fix it at the trailhead.  I wore my bike shoes to work so I wouldn't forget them and then changed into my work shoes that I keep under the desk for when I bike commute, but this would be all for naught.

I got out of work later than I should have and found myself heading out with an hour to go and still needing to stop by the bike shop.   I spent a good 5-10 minutes riding around the parking lot waiting for a space to open up.  When I ducked into the shop I found a cheap mini pump quickly (first thing I forgot) and the guys hooked me up with a slime tube to fix my flat.  After getting some gatoraid, water and a pack of Dolly Madison doughnuts in Bashas (doughnuts were to replace the gels I forgot to bring) I was off to battle traffic up Shea and then to get lost in Fountain Hills while downing the gatorade to get ahead of the hydration game.  In the end I got to the parking lot around 7:40.  I figured I was still good but I hurried as fast as I could to fix the flat and setup all my lights and fill my hydration pack (forgot my water bottles,  I was fortunate to have had the pack in the back from a campout a month or two ago.

In my hurry I put my main light on and tested it.  It was dead.  That was why I brought a spare battery which worked.   I put on my two blaze 3 watt lights on my handlebars and between my helmet HID light and the two handlebar lights, I was throwing out a ton of light.   I then went to get my biking shoes out of the car....  Hmmm,  where are they?  they were supposed to be here... no, wait,  they're supposed to be on my feet since I changed back into them after work right? Wrong.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my biking shoes were still under my desk where they would do a fat lot of good.  I was heading into a 2 hour mountain bike ride on hilly singletrack at night wearing my office shoes on Time Atak clipless pedals.

I girded up my spandex, put on a stiff upper lip,  and signed in at the register.  Then I was off into the night alone.  I'd get passed by several others who were late.  I couldn't believe I was going that much slower but I was working as hard as was prudent seeing as I had only ridden this trail once before in the daylight, going the opposite direction.   It didn't matter a whole lot though as we progressed up the hill a good number of the speedy guys would be stopped waiting for friends or checking out their bike or something else yada yada yada.   Guess I wasn't so slow after all.   I hate riding in wieners.  My motto is stay on the bike as much as you can instead of riding fast, stopping, riding fast, stopping and so forth.

It was a bit challenging climbing the rocky ridges heading up to the mountain and I found myself breathing hard and still getting passed by a few people.  Near the top I would pass several groups though.  I paused a moment to take the picture above at one point as the moon was about to take a header behind the mountain.  It was cooling down around in here and the evening breezes made things extremely pleasant.  I started to pass people who honestly admitted they were tired and when I asked one guy if he was ok,  he said he was just tired but he would really like my light.  I must admit,  I was in the lap of luxury.   I was throwing out more light than one of my car headlights and rabbits, and desert rats were vaporizing before my eyes.  Well, not really,  I saw a couple of them though and thye at least ran away from my light.

The rolling hills around the top of the loop made me glad I had all the light as we twisted and turned and rolled around various obstacles.  A bush here a bush there...oops,  no that should be a cactus here,  a cactus there.   Did I mention I was really glad I had all that light to help me avoid the "bushes"?  Towards the end of the rollers (and I was good and ready to hit the long descent let me tell you!).  I passed a lady on a hill and then not too long after that my HID blinked out.  I thought it might be the battery but I pulled off to the side and fiddled with it anyway to no avail and she passed me.  I figured since my two handlebar lights didn't throw out nearly as much light I'd ride behind her and not pass her again.  I held her until we started to descend and she pulled away having the more light to see by.  I didn't do too badly though since the trail is wide and smooth on this part of the loop.  Still,  I had to slow a lot more at the places the trail made a sharp turn since my helmet light wasn't there to let me look at the end of the turn.  I got passed by one guy in here who was really cooking.

When I found myself alone again I discovered that you could see the milky way out here despite being so close to Phoenix.  There were a lot of stars overhead and several times I hit ruts while I was looking at them and nearly biffed it.   It was a beautiful night to be riding in the desert.  The temps had cooled off, it was mostly downhill from here,  and I was on a bike cruising through the whoopdi doos.   I got my helmet light back on through here, not too long before I saw the familiar lights of the parking lot off in the distance.

Upon arriving I was informed by an apologetic cook that they were out of everything but bacon which they were currently frying up since they had an unexpectedly high turnout (140,  when they usually only get 100).  The bacon tasted really good.  I guess with a name like "Slippery Pig"  they have to serve good bacon.  They did have soda's left too (I think this is because they were giving out beer too and I suspect much of this crowd didn't opt for soda).  After I signed out I stowed my bike and then remembered my doughnuts which I enjoyed on the way out.   It was a really good ride and I am definitely going to do it next time I can.

As to feeling like I was working harder and not keeping up with other folks?  Well,  rolling the bike across the lot I discovered my back brake had been rubbing all night.   Nothing like some resistance training huh?  Tonight may have been the night of the living dead equipment problems but it was so worth it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Happy boys....

So, I decided to commute in the other day.  I'd been off the bike for two weeks and figured everything was all good to go.  Bike...check.  Helmet...Check.  Shoes....check.  Good to go.   I am forced to take the short commute due to time restraints but decide I'll take the hilly route.  It's a warm morning and I am feeling weak having been off the bike so long and also lugging the laptop.  It takes me forever to warm up.  Through the shady neighborhoods of Scottsdale I ride heading in to Paradise Valley.  I am starting the hills and as I go to stand up..........  I spy one of my crank bolts sticking out of the crank.  Yes.... in my zeal I had forgotten that I had moved the crank bolts from this bike to my Mountain Bike many weeks ago and just left one of the mountain bike ones stuck in the side of the crank loosely.   I got a hollow feeling in my stomache as I thought about what could have happened when I stood up and stepped hard on the wheel.  All the guys out there probably get the same hollow gut punched feeling just thinking about it too.   To add insult to injury I could have gone down and broken a collarbone or something too.  It was fortunate I noticed that. 

What a wonderful opportunity to practice a nice round pedal stroke.  There were about 6 miles left to ride and I had my fingers crossed I'd make it.   I figured the good guys at the Trailhead Bike Shop Cafe would have me covered for new bolts on the way home so if I could just make it to work,  I'd just coast down to the bike shop on my way back and be right as rain (of which I wish we would get some,  this monsoon is really lame this year,  other than the three days after my Dad died of course).

Up and down the hills I was on pins and needles but in the end it turned out fine.  I waddled out of the heat and into the health club for a ncie cold shower before work.   On the way home the shop did not disappoint me and I got back to the car without incident.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Passing on...

My Dad gave me my first bike when I was around 5 or 6.  It was a training bike with big fat plastic wheels.  I rode it a lot and one day it broke in half as I rode it out of my friend's driveway.  Since I was balancing good at that point I got a cool bike with solid tires that had flames painted on it.  My friend and I pretended it left a flame trail behind it and put cards in the spokes to make motorcycle noises.  Then one day,  I was careless and left it in the driveway behind the family car.

My next bike was an interesting no name brand with a bananna seat on it which became almost un sittable after I put a bumper sticker on it that made the seat slippery.  I can't remember what the whole draw of bananna seats was.  Maybe it was that you could ride double?

My next bike that I remember was one my Dad said he'd meet me halfway on since I needed one for my paper route.  We trucked on down to Cosmic Cyclery just south of downtown Flagstaff (this was in the old days of the late 70's) and I had the choice of a redline frame,  which wouldn't have done me a whole lot of good or a nice complete Rampar.  Rampar is one of the earlier Japanese or Taiwanese brands.  Apparently it was part of Raleigh after they got sold to Huffy.  It was a BMX bike with a chromoly frame and alloy wheels (which I trashed, still at the stage of learning to take care of equipment).

After this a friend sold me his old cruiser type bike (which he said jumped better than my current bike humorously enough,  I was pretty stupid then)  for $20 and my Dad shifted my BMX bike to my brother who left it out on the front porch one day to be stolen.  I moved up to a Murray Mtn bike after that which I managed to freeze the bottom bracket on after a lot of riding and newspaper deliveries..

Sometime while I was in Junior high I spied an old ten speed that had been scooped up with the snow removal equipment and dumped on the lot where they put snow to melt.  I ended up turning it into the police department at the request of my Dad.  They told me that it would be mine if no one claimed it and then they stuffed it into a storeroom somewhere and forgot about it.  Well, a year and a half later someone was cleaning the room and low and behold,  here is this bike they forgot to give back to this kid when no one claimed it.  It was poorly painted black with green paint showing through, and I don't know what brand it was but it was a good ride and it was my first real education in working on bikes.

Once I got my drivers license I didn't ride much anymore.  Hiked yes,  rode no.  It wasn't until I got back from Japan with a determination to own a "real"  bike of quality that I would start riding again.  My Dad (are you seeing a connection here?) took me down to SingleTrack bicycles in Flagstaff to buy a previous years model of a Fila Taos Mtn bike which just happened to be my size according to the salesman who was trying to unload old stock.  He also told me it had a sealed bottom bracket.  He was wrong on both counts but I rode the stuffing out of that bike and only recently have moved on to another mountain bike with front suspension.

I rode that bike to the tops of the Peaks (well at least to the inner basin) and on nearly every dirt road or trail within 10 miles of the Flagstaff area.  I rode it through the desert to the woodbury trailhead and the trails around Lost Dutchman state park and most notable on my failed attempt at the Dirty Mogollon Madness permanent in it's former form.  It was a faithful steed despite times of neglect after I bought a motorcycle or married and moved to the valley.  There are many good times put in on that frame over the years.

I bring all of these bikes up as my Dad was related to them all in some way.  He used to ride his bike to work all the time and sometimes would take me on his kid seat on the back.  Amazingly enough he was able to make it up Cherry hill with me on the back.  He rode an old Raleigh 5 speed.   Many is the time I rummaged his bicycle box for tools or parts to fix bicycles or to marvel at his prehistoric frame pump with the hose that pulled out of the handle and screwed on to the bottom.  I never rode with him much on long rides or anything but family jaunts around the neighborhood or to the Junior High pond and back yet he influenced my cycling in a pretty big way.

The reason I have not posted in the last few weeks is that he died on the 27th of July of a coronary failure.  It's been tough losing him.  He often would ask me about my Saturday rides and where I had gone.  Occasionally he would share concern about me riding alone in certain wild areas where there was no help available, but mostly he was pretty supportive.  He stopped riding his bike to work in the 80's and not too long after put on weight which he would carry with him until recently when he was starting to pull it back down.   I haven't ridden for 2 weeks while I have been tangled up with all the details that ensue when a loved one passes away.  

It's about time to start riding again.  I think though,  and I was thinking a bit on these lines before he died too, that it's about time to spend more time riding with my kids and perhaps cut out a few long rides here and there and work on getting my kids in better shape and also get them into a few events like the Tour de Phoenix and Tucson (the 30 mile coarses at first of course).  In the long run it will lead to more cycling (maybe with my own private paceline even),  and in the short run it will lay a great foundation and relationship with those I love most.  Here's to you Dad.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What dreams in madness lie?

Saturday's ride was so awesome that you need to go read it over on my website where I have it so the pictures can display larger.  Here is the link to the ride report-

Here is a link to Mike Sturgill's photos from the ride (they are a lot prettier than mine)-
Feel free to post comments back here if you want though.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


There are rides one must do whenever they are in the vicinity.  A fella in shape with nothing to do on a weekend in Tucson would be criminal to skip Mt. Lemon.  A cyclist visiting Mesa would be foolish indeed to miss the ride to Tortilla Flat.  Of course a guy missing the Alpine Loop in Provo, Ut would be the same and I must confess I am guilty.   In my defense though, I rode up Mt. Nebo instead. 

The innocent looking bottom of the climb.

It is a truth universally recognized that a man in possesion of a good bicycle must be in want of a climb.   One must have an epic climb a year or they will lose perspective I believe.  Epic climbs are different for everybody of course but for the last few years my definition of  "Epic Climb" starts at a hill that is over 3000 feet high.  That's my loose definition.  The two truly epic climbs that I presently know are the Nebo Loop and Mt. Lemon which both climb over 5000 feet.  I have heard marvelous and wonderful legends of a hill known as Graham in eastern Arizona but I have yet to seek out this mythical beast and slay it.

Ascending the foothills in Payson Canyon

What is soreness to the body of a cyclist-errant? What matter wounds? For each time he falls...he will rise again... and woe to the Mountain!  It is quite true that an epic climb resets our suffer - o - meter.  Through pushing ourselves to do fantastic things, we find ourselves capable of the fantastic.  The unbelieving body is converted to the faith by the will of the mind as each pedal stroke raises us higher and higher.

The first of  many.

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded little canyon.  It is in such non-descript places that often enough our epic struggles emerge.  They lull us in and let us hope as we smirk at the ease of grade and our excitement of departure is strong.  We might even have wonderfull scenery and a few deer to stare at us and raise our spirits periodically.

More Cows

The thousand injuries of Mt. Nebo I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.  One must have an almost burning vengeance to attack an epic climb.  To such as Nebo is, one must have an undying desire to conquer to keep continually mashing the pedals for hours on end.  "There is no spinning here" the mountain scoffs at you!   When you are tired and take hope in thinking the next corner will bring a break to the neverending 9% grade he is ever ready to dash hopes and add insult to injury.

A road and a collection of waterfalls.

You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of a climb which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.  We find that after each disappoinment there is a mentality of resetting our goal to the next corner.  Perchance the masochistic Mountain should then again venture upon spurious disappointment, we find there is still enough will for one more corner.  Where there is food, breath, and water, there is further fuel for life and struggle and the mind can still command the aching mass of ligaments, bones, and muscles.  Not to mention the bicycle which creaks beneath the strain of our effort.

Emerging from a mountain shadow

Towards thee I climb, thou all-destroying but unconquering Mountain; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee. for every mountain bears many false tops.  with each our will and morale are dealt blows.  Nebo scoffs as the peak becomes visible, yet each corner brings a new pitch to ascend.  Several times we descend to pass a saddle between hills on the ridges.  The hill seems endless and despair drains the energy from the legs but the mind presses on.

Yours Truly

Reaching for the sky

One, two! One, two! And through and through The vorpal bike goes snicker-snack!  we leave the mountain dead, and with its head we go galumphing back.  For at long last one finds the road will no longer rise and if one continues he only descends the other side.  There is nothing but sky ahead and the air is fresh and pure and the wind rustles the aspen leaves and all is right with the world and all that is left is to return and record our exploits in the tomes or blogs of out choice.

Mt. Nebo
one of the many knobs one must climb over

Your's Truly

And there was much rejoicing!

A bit of an eye catcher in a small rural Utah town.

Today's post was brought to you with fractured quotes from Edgar Alan Poe, Lewis Carroll, Jane Austin, Douglas Adams, Man of La Mancha, Herman Melville, and Mary Shelly.