29 December 2008

Why Am I So ANGRY Tonight?

It's been a long and troublesome cold spell in Seattle. For two weeks I didn't ride my bike. I didn't ride, not because a local cyclist was killed, but because the local area was inundated with over a foot of snow that has clogged streets, shut down everything from newspaper and mail delivery to pick up of garbage from the curb. It is all melting away now, however and leaving in its wake the usual mess of sand, blowing garbage and abandoned cars.

Just before the cold snap started, though, I did a 50 mile ride on Saturday, December 13th. As I rode out of the house the temperatures were just above freezing, and it didn't warm up a whole lot, but throughout the day, I kept thinking about what had taken place just two days before. At a little after 6:00 am on Thursday December 11th, a 56-year old man bid his family farewell and left for work. He did this pretty much the same way he'd been doing it every day for a long time. He was gainfully employed as a mechanic. He loved his family and was a contributing member of his community. Unlike most morning commuters, though, this man was one of a much smaller community of working Americans who chose to ride a bicycle to work and home. Just an ordinary guy, with an ordinary family, living an ordinary life in an ordinary community. Just like me.

At a little after 6:00 am that same morning, I did exactly what this 56 year old man did. I strapped on my helmet, turned on all of my headlights and taillights, straddled my bicycle and headed off to work.

There is one big difference. That night, I got to walk back through the door to my ordinary home, kiss my ordinary family hello, sit down to an ordinary dinner and go on with my ordinary life. This stranger was far less fortunate. As he rode down Renton Avenue South out of Skyway, he was struck by an oncoming driver in a Large American Car and died at the scene before he could tell his wife just one more time how much he loved her.

I found out about Paul Radliff as I was walking to lunch, when I got a call from a friend; a friend who knows I commute by bike every day and was worried about my safety.

And on that Saturday, I rode around on my bike like a deer caught in the headlights, thinking about this man and his family and what had been taken away from him. I was filled with a sadness that doesn't often hit me when I read or hear about a traffic fatality. I wasn't particularly angry at that point, just shocked and sad. Not shocked as in surprised. But shocked because this man was so much like me. I do the same thing every day that he does, and I was still alive and able to enjoy the coming of winter. Sad because he had so much of a life ahead of him that was unfulfilled.

I rode around that day, more conscious of every car that passed me. I was shaken by this incident for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the reaction of our local law enforcement officers and their attitude toward cyclists. Specifically in this instance, is the fact that the 79 year old driver who was never identified in the media "because he hadn't been charged", was neither cited at the scend for failure to yield the right of way nor charged with any major offense (i.e., vechicular homicide, inattentive driving, negligent driving), and the only thing that the police would say was that the investigation was continuing.

I refuse to call this a tragic accident, which is what I have seen it described as. I call it what it is. Vehicular Homicide. I have perused our local newspapers since then. Of course, since we had a major weather event, everything else has taken a back seat to dealing with plowing roads and making it possible to move more and more cars around the city again, and all of the police departments' energies have been re-allocated, so something like investigating a manslaughter becomes a thing of non-importance. This seems to be a trend in my community and it saddens me. I did manage to come across this photograph of Paul Ratliff in the Seattle Times, along with a nice article about him.

photo from Seattle Times - Marie Bolstad

I have sat and studied this photograph a lot over the past few weeks, contemplating what Paul's Christmas would have been like. Would he have been sitting at home like me, staring out the window as more and more snow piled up on his street, wondering when he was going to be able to ride his bike again? Would he have been pacing back and forth through the house like a caged animal, just chomping at the bit to get back out there on his bike? Would he have been cruising the internet scheming on ways to make it so he could ride his bike in bad weather?

Something that has been a bit odd for me is that as I rode to work the day after finding out about this uninvestigated and unpunished homicide, I kept wondering if there was something Paul could have done to make himself more visible. What part did he play in his own death? I found myself falling into the same trap that many motorists seem to put us in. WHY do we instantly blame the victim?

And then I started to feel anger. Anger at the police for failing to make certain that the driver who was responsible was cited and appropriately charged. Anger at the driver who failed to recognize and appropriately respond to an obstacle in front of him and in the process kill another innocent man. Anger at the insensitive assholes who posted in the newspaper every bit of vitriolic hatred toward people on bicycles they could muster from the privacy of their computer keyboard. Finally, anger at myself for falling victim to the same prejudice that I want others to rise above.

Today, I'm on a week of vacation. Shortly after lunch, I strapped on my helmet, cinched up my cycling shoes, put on my reflective rain jacket, kissed my loving wife goodbye and headed south from my ordinary little home on a ride to my mother-in-law's house. Normally, I would ride along Lake Washington to Renton, but today, I was once again thinking of Paul Radliff, and how his life was cut short at the hands of a careless and inattentive man. As I rode down Cloverdale, the light turned green and I went through the intersection and turned right onto Renton Avenue South. There are three steep hills to get to the top of the hill in Skyway, and no hills if I ride around the base. Today, instead of turning onto Henderson and going along the lake, I rode up the hill. I rode up and up and up, thinking of Paul with each rotation of my pedals. It was all I could do not to cry. It was all I could do not to scream at every car that went by me. I know it isn't their fault. I know I shouldn't be angry at everyone in a car, and I'm really not. But today, I rode for Paul. I rode in his honor and in his memory.

As I crested the hill and started down the other side, I felt my speed begin to increase. There were cars coming up the hill and cars behind me. 10....15....20. The winds were strong this afternoon and blowing straight into my face. By the time I got to the intersection where Mr. Radliff was killed, I was up to 25 mph, and I saw the "ghost bike" that some concerned citizen has placed at the corner. I had to concentrate all of my energies on the road in front of me, as I carefully scanned each and every car that approached me as I descended toward Renton. When I got to the bottom of the hill, I was relieved.

Automobiles are responsible for thousands of deaths every year. Drunk drivers, careless and inattentive drivers, inexperienced drivers, drivers who due to their age or other limitations should not be driving any longer, and angry/hostile drivers make up the mix of what ordinary guys like Paul Radliff and I have to deal with every day. Fortunately, I get to live another day.

I want justice for Paul. I want the police to arrest the driver. I want them to perp walk him through to the booking area, fingerprint him and place him in a cell along with the other individuals who are arrested on suspicion of a crime. That won't happen because all he did was kill a guy on a bike.

And that is why I'm angry tonight.

Who Says We're NUTS????

December 28, 2008
Dateline Seattle, WA.
Weather Forecast: 40F, SW Winds to 15; 70% chance of precipitation
Current Condition: Most snow melted; bike paths still impacted with 4" slush

I'd wanted to do a 200 the day after Christmas, but with recent severe weather in the form of the most significant snow storm and longest cold snap since 1950, the Seattle area has been overwhelmed in a lot of ways, and there was still too much snow to do what I would consider a safe ride. The last time I'd been off the bike for 14 consecutive days was in August, 2008 when I had hand surgery, so my legs were definitely not in top form. I managed a short 20 mile ride on Saturday ….

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…. just to get a bit of a warm up and experiment riding in some slush just so I'd be a little better prepared for being on the tandem and possibly having to react when I've got somebody else who is depending on my handling skills to avoid a career ending crash. Also spent a couple hours Saturday getting the tandem clean, lubed and ready to roll for 130 miles of hard winter riding conditions.

Sunday morning I awoke to rain. Not heavy, but definite rain. By the time I got to Mercer Island for the start, it had quit and I arrived at the same time as Pam was driving in. She told me it was raining hard to the east, and we are riding right into it. While we were getting her saddle and pedals on Sherman, Geoff rode up and a few minutes later, Chris arrived. Both Chris and Pam are going for their 1st R-12; this is month 4 for Chris and 3 for Pam. Both are new to randonneuring and very determined. Pam is a really strong stoker, with in incredible strength on the climbs and absolutely fearless on descents (much more so than me), and not intimidated by the threat of falling (only because I've never dumped her yet). She's a seasoned mountain biker and former gymnast, so when I finally do crash us, it will be most interesting to see what kind of acrobatics she's going to engage in to save her own life while I go tumbling off the side of a mountain. Chris rode RAMROD with me this summer and took on the R-12 as his next challenge, buying a new titanium custom built Davidson for his pursuit. Geoff, of course, is a long-term randonneur and veteran with whom I always enjoy riding.

At 7:50 we took off out of the QFC lot, heading east. We managed to get as far as the East Channel bridge over Lake Washington before we had to portage our bikes over the first snow field. Heavily saturated slush about 4” deep was not rideable.

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We knew the trail between the slough and Eastgate would be impassable, so did a 3 or 4 mile detour that took us through the Lake Hills Connector, adding a couple of good little climbs to our early morning ride. As we turned east at Factoria, a fine mist started to hit us that got gradually heavier until we got to Issaquah, at which time it was a full fledged rain shower. Because of all the snow melt, the roads were also littered with a lot of sand and gravel which mucked all of our bikes up pretty good. Geoff was the only one without a mudflap, so he mostly led from behind until we got into Redmond, where Chris removed his front mudflap and Geoff mounted it on his bike, which helped immensely. I had added a new front mudflap to Sherman, and looking at the degree of grime on Geoff’s bike in comparison to what was on the tandem, we got a really good demonstration of just how much a front mudflap helps to keep crap out of the drive train. I’ve heard people talk about this before, but this was the first time I saw a really good demonstration of it. That front mudflap also kept a lot of the crud off of my feet, though they ended up cold and wet anyway.

Heading through Marymoor Park, we got our first taste of having to ride through slush, and I was really glad for having taken the time I did on Saturday, as I had to plow through it on the tandem. Even with the wider tires and additional weight, it’s not easy or fun, especially knowing that if I go down, I’m taking somebody with me. Pam was a good sport. When I got us through it, I said to her, “well, I guess that got your adrenaline pumped up a bit, huh?” And she said that it would take a lot more than that to worry her.

We headed south out of Marymoor along West Lake Sammamish and had to go back up the steep grade we’d gone down before, some sections that were 12 – 14%. A tough go on the tandem, but we managed to keep up with both Chris and Geoff at a whopping 4 mph!!! After getting through Eastgate area again, we had to use our next detour to avoid the snow covered bike paths between S. Bellevue and Renton along the east side of Lake Washington, a normally very easy section of mixed roadway and bike path. The work-around was not nearly as easy, and Geoff added in a wonderful little “bonus climb” for us at 18%. I think this is the steepest I’ve ever done on the tandem, and still my stoker never complained about how hard it was, only about how many extra miles we’re adding in to an already too-long ride to be doing in the middle of winter (actually, it isn’t the middle of winter yet, but I didn’t want to appear to be nit picking the issue).

Once we got to Renton, it was really smooth sailing the rest of the afternoon. The sun came out for a little bit, the pavement dried up along a good part of the route and except for a light headwind (4-8 mph), it was totally enjoyable as we headed out West Valley Highway, stopping for a snack in Kent.

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The final push into Orting was a bit rough as the winds seemed to pick up a bit, but with broken clouds and on a newly paved bike path paralleling the highway, it was really enjoyable. Mt. Rainier even decided to show itself for a brief spell.

After a half hour stop in Orting as Geoff and I watched Pam and Chris eat sandwiches and I downed a handful of ibuprofen, we took off north, but the rain had started again. At least we had a tailwind pushing us along. Geoff has added a nice little easterly section that took us slightly into the foothills along a road with no traffic and then after riding through Sumner again, we took off on one of my old training routes back into Algona/Pacific where we picked up the Interubran Trail into Tukwila, where it intersects the River Trail. We probably should have not even gotten off onto the River Trail, as we encountered a lot of slushy areas. Just after hitting this trail, we encountered a huge snowman that took up most of the trail. Fortunately, there was enough melt off that we could ride around it. But a half mile later, as we were going through Fort Dent Park, the entire trail was covered. Geoff and I had a little bet going, as I really didn’t think we were going to have to use any more detours. He mentioned when we got here that it looked like he’d won. Not being the least bit competitive, I thought we could ride through it, so Pam and I took the lead. I was right. We managed to get through it. I slipped and slid my way along, Pam having the foresight to not say anything and letting me concentrate on keeping the bike upright. We got through the mess, and I asked her again if I’d managed to increase her heartrate, but she still wasn’t bothered by it all.

We continued on past Boeing Credit Union and the Tukwila Community Center before we started to hit some really odd long and narrow slushy patches. I’d relaxed a little and all of a sudden found myself in the middle of one of these patches of icy, mucky slush that I had to steer us through. The back end of the tandem was sliding all over the place and I thought we were going down for sure. If I had been on my single, I know I would have crashed, but the fat tires and weight saved the day and we got through it. As I let out a huge sigh of relief, my hands trembling and knees knocking, Pam said, “well, THAT one sorta got my heart going.” FINALLY!!!!! Now I know what it takes.

At the next possible opportunity, I took our little entourage off the bike path and onto East Marginal Way. No need to crash to prove a point. Geoff wins.

The designated route includes following along the River Trail into South Park and onto the Duwamish, my daily commute route. But having already added several miles, Geoff eliminated this section and we went into downtown on Airport Way, so we just had a 6 mile long puddle instead. Rain was coming down hard now and had been for a half hour. We were now fully certified members of the drowned rat club and the temperatures were dropping.

I had expected the I-90 Trail would be fully melted, and it was for the most part, but there were several sections just before the tunnel that still had big sections of slush, with 6” wide tracks to ride through. Pam told me that these were there to improve my handling skills and prove I could ride in a straight line. I tried. I was mostly successful. I didn’t crash us. It was somewhere around here that Chris and Pam realized we weren’t 2 miles from being done, but had to do a loop around the south end of Mercer Island, another 12 miles and 1,000’ of climbing before we’re done. Neither was really happy about this.

As we got onto Mercer Island and headed south, it seemed like the temperature warmed a few degrees. Chris was slowing down and this is a road that just wants to be ridden fast. For some reason, I can really fly on this stretch, especially on the tandem, but on this night, I would be in cruise control. Once I accepted this, it was really nice to just relax. No heavy traffic, the rain had quit, and there was a broken cloud cover, with a few stars visible. We rolled into the finish line after 132 miles, all of us successfully completing the course, no flat tires, no crashes and all of us one month closer to our R-12.

A great day in the saddle, all in all.

05 November 2008

Morning In America Again

It is once again morning in America. I awoke this morning with the realization that on the 4th day of November, 2008 we as a nation finally drove the final stake through the heart of the slavery upon which this country was built by electing Barack Hussein Obama as our 44th President.

As I pedaled between home and my office, I was filled with an overwhelming pride. I found myself considering what this election means; not just for the African Americans in the United States, not just for other minorities in our great country, but for children of all races, all creeds, both male and female around the world.

For the past 28 years, certain of our countrymen have attempted to make the word ‘liberal’ a bad thing. These individuals have attempted to brand those who would seek to change our nation as socialists, communists, soft on terrorism, soft on crime, and have filled our airwaves with messages of hate and racism, mostly very subtle, but much not so subtle either. President-Elect Obama has helped us to overcome much of this. He has continued to acknowledge history and show vision for a bright future.

As a child of the 50’s and 60’s, I grew up with a father who was not outraged by the racism of his time, but was outraged by the race riots that were taking place. While not outwardly racist himself, he stood by the very men who would seek to further the racist policies in our great nation. He rejected the very men and women who were seeking to bring about changes in the civil rights movement and sought safe harbor in the politics of the status quo.

Like almost every other American, I remember where I was the day JFK was assassinated. I also remember where I was the day his brother Robert was assassinated and the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Living through these events, and later the assassination of Anwar Sadat, much of my view of the world was changed. We live in a dangerous and troubled world, and there are individuals and groups of individuals who resist great change and resist the unity that these visionaries sought to bring.

In my lifetime, I have been blessed to watch the United States change from a time when certain individuals could not walk into a restaurant because of the color of their skin to a time when a black couple with their two lovely daughters stood arm in arm, center stage in front of the American People and in fact, the entire world, and acknowledged with great pride and humility that they were not only prepared to, but had been asked to walk through the front door of the White House in just over two months to lead us through whatever we face for the next four years. And this morning I am filled with a pride that I have never before experienced.

Today, I am proud to be an American in a way I have never felt proud before. 28 years ago, Ronald Wilson Reagan stood before the American People and, with a twinkle in his eye, stated that it was “Morning In America.” As much as I disagreed with him during the time he was my president, he was right. Coming out of the Watergate scandal, the oil embargoes, staggering inflation and violence throughout the world, a great change was needed. Some immediate change did take place that was very positive for the world, though much of the change that has taken place during the past 3 decades has been change that has made our nation and our world less safe, less kind, less gentle and less tolerant.

During that time, we have had four presidents who sought to bring about their own visions of change. The past eight years have been a traumatic time in our world. The violence that has spread like a virus threatens to destroy us, and there are individuals and groups of individuals who celebrate this threat. They have always been amongst us, and always will. We cannot and must not be cowed by them. We must continue to stand up to them. For the past eight years, we as a people have not been asked to sacrifice. We have not been asked to do one thing. When our country was attacked, we were told to go shopping.

The recklessness with which our current leadership has utilized our most precious of resources (i.e., our young women and men who so bravely volunteer to defend us in our time of crisis) has brought us to the brink of extinction as a nation. This cavalier show of force in which we have engaged has squandered a budget surplus, has weakened our strength in the eyes of the world and has contributed to making our world less safe. Last night ushered in a bright new day. It is again Morning in America and I hold my head high as I accept the challenge placed before me by my new commander in chief to be a part of a changing world. What is the sacrifice you ask of me, Mr. President? You see, last night I got the first really good night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time. Yes, it is once again morning in America and I am well rested and ready to serve.

23 October 2008

Happy Trails

Just one of the many tunes that rattles around in my brain when I'm pedaling along out there.

19 October 2008

Riding the Stillaguamish, Sauk and Skagit Rivers

October can be one of the most beautiful months of the year in the Northwest. This proved to be an outstanding weekend for cycling, as seven of us found out, taking on the nearly flat “Three Rivers Cruise” 200K RUSA permanent on the 18th. This was Chris Heg’s opportunity to get his 2nd 200K in towards his R-12 pursuit and Pam Creighton reluctantly let me twist her arm into coming out and stoking for me on tandem. The three of us were joined by Geoff Swarts, one of our local Permanents coordinators, Shan Perera, Mike Richeson and Thai Nguyen, all fantastic randonneurs and great guys to ride with.

We chose a little bit later start time, as it tends to be quite foggy and cool riding from Arlington to Darrington at this time of year, and we hoped for both a burning off of the fog early and an ability to finish by sunset. As we rode out of Arlington, it looked for a while like the 2nd hope might be more realistic than the 1st.


It burned off pretty early, though, giving the valley a really nice crisp autumn feel.


This is one of my favorite views. While the photo doesn't show it in all of its grandeur, I've always been amazed at the uplifted granite 'slabs' that make up the northeastern portion, wondering what it must have felt like on planet earth when that happened


And no trip through this area is quite complete without a little view of Whitehorse Mountain:


We stopped for some snacks in Darrington (gotta have them receipts, right?) and Mike, Geoff and Thai managed to stop moving long enuf for me to catch a quick shot:


And in a rare moment, the team actually let Pam and I sit on for a few minutes at the BACK instead of pulling the whole freight train. Danged tandems, anyway:


All of the fall foliage was simply spectacular, even if we didn't see as many eagles as I'd hoped:


And then it was time to cross the Sauk River:


By the time we made it to Marblemount, Pam was definitely ready to stop at The Eatery for a bit of soup and hot cup of tea.


I had pie, too.

I thought Chris wanted to take my picture:


How was I supposed to know he was trying to take a photograph of a TREE?????


After a nice lunch, it was off to follow the Skagit River for a while:


Over a couple of hills and through another little valley, we arrived in Concrete:


where Shan had caught up to us and most of us stopped to either load up on water or get rid of some:


And of course, once we were back on the road, where was the tandem? Yep, you guessed it, pulling all those singles AGAIN!!!


But where was Chris? Pam and I "decided" to "slow down and wait for him". Yep, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.


Due to some kind of misforune - or perhaps because the sun felt so good reflecting off the firestation, Thai and Shan were still at Day Creek when Pam and I arrived:



Of course, by the time we got to the Day Creek Fire Station for our informational control where we had to count doors and find a well hidden church, Pam was ready for a little bit of a nap:


And Chris arrived a few minutes later, having had his own little tire difficulties:


And with another 35 miles to go, we all struck off for the finish line. Geoff and Mike were far off the front by then, Shan and Thai had taken off just before Chris arrived and we saw them parked at Clear Lake Store as we rolled through. After a quick 5-minute "butt break" at 5-Corners, Chris, Pam and I scooted out for the final 20, only to be turned around by the WSP due to a road closure, leading to a 3-mile backtrack and traversing of the west side of Clear Lake. We managed to pick Shan and Thai up again, and now it was starting to look like we were going to be really pushing it to finish before sunset, but with just a real quick, 3-minute "Mountain Dew Moment for Raleighdon" at the little mimi-mart at Lake McMurray, we were off for the final 10-mile push.

And as we dropped into the valley in Arlington, the shadows were long


but we were within a couple miles, with just one little hill to go over to the finiah line. And as we crossed back over the Skagit River, with 1 mile to the finish line, the sun was just beginning to drop over the horizon


We rolled to the finish line just as the last of the sun was setting on the day and I rolled the tandem to the front door of Haggen's


When we got off, Pam said to me, "I'll walk back to the car". Her butt hurt. She wanted nothing more to do with that tandem (or probably me, for that matter).

And so came to close another beautiful and marvelous day, spent with good friends on a great ride route and I went home to yet another wonderful bowl of hot soup and cornbread, of course this time cooked by my loving and supportive MimiTabby:

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Photo Credits: Pam took all the lovely scenery shots, I took the people shots. The photo of Mimi was taken in Sorrento on one of our honeymoons.

05 October 2008


OK, I’ll admit it. I like to climb. I also like to play in the rain. I also like to ride my bike to Sunrise. I’ve done it every year for the last 4 years and have been a little disappointed that I wasn’t going to get to do it this year. Then Chris Heg said he really wanted to do RUSA’s Sunrise Climb 200K before it got too late because he’d done the ride with Redmond Cycling Club earlier in the year, but they weren’t able to ride above the White River Campground as the road was closed for construction. Then this week, Mark Thomas and his band of rowdies called in sick on Wednesday, the only day of the week that was probably well suited for this ride, and had a fabulous time.

So in reality, it is all Mark Thomas’ fault. Well, pretty much everything I do in randoneurring is his fault. At least, I find it in my heart to blame him for all of it. Every unnecessary hill I have to climb, every “extra” mile I have to ride. All his fault. After riding the South Hood Canal 200 with him a week and a half ago, I discovered that Mark is probably the only guy I know that loves coffee almost as much as me, in fact, he may even drink MORE of this lovely beverage than I do. The jury is still out on that one.

After reading the ride reports from Wednesday, I started to wish I’d been able to play hooky for the second week in a row and climb to Sunrise with (or far behind) them. But, alas, that was not to be, so I sent a note to Narayan and begged him to let me pull together a permanent on really short notice. His response was something like, “Hey, if you’re nuts enough to want to do it in that kind of weather, be my guest. Here’s your brevet card, and HELL NO I don’t want to go with you.” I think it was actually nicer than that, more like, “I’d love to ride with you, but I have to work.” Whatever!

Well, I did managed to sucker, I mean interest one victim, I mean partner for the ride. Ward Beebe and I met at a quarter to 6 this morning in front of the Black Diamond Bakery and as soon as we’d downed a little sugar laden carbohydrates and my second triple shot mocha for the morning, we were out of there at 7:15. The sky was partly cloudy, but seemed to be lightening up, and it looked like we might be in for a great day. As memory serves me, it was just about the same way a week or so ago when I repetitively told President Thomas sorta the same thing, “Hey! We’re riding right into it.” And we were.

Since we’d never really ridden together, a lot of our first few miles was spent getting to know each other, with conversation turning, of course to family and common interest in old-time music was discovered, with us knowing many of the same folks in yet anoter community. Not many randonneurs I know even know what “old-time fiddling” is, much less know any of the people who really play it. It was quite refreshing. After a quick stop to fill out some arcane question and answer quiz for the powers that be after a whopping 7 miles in Cumberland, we lit out for Enumclaw where we started the climbing.

The temperature had started out at 40 degrees, but now it was up to a balmy 43, but I knew the forecast was for 34 at Longmire (elevation approximately 2,800’) with a threat of snow. OK, we’re riding to Sunrise, elevation 6,400’ so I figured it might be a bit dicey and I’d packed my MSR Pocket Rocket camp stove

along with 2 of my porcelain demitasse cups and a silver spoon, coffee, sugar and a single “MOKA” espresso maker. I thought I might pick up a cup-o-noodles to cook at the top, but decided against it.

For wardrobe, I wore my Ibex knickers and knee socks, Patagonia medium weight base layer with one of my wool sweater-jerseys over it and a vest. In the bag I’d packed my Shower Pass rain jacket, leg warmers, an extra pair of gloves (they should have been the extra large over-gloves, but I erred in judgment there and of course, a pair of booties.

The profile for this ride is pretty simple. Climb for 65 miles, then descend for 61 miles. Very few turns, only 2 mid-ride controls and the roads are all in pretty good conditions, save for all the rumble strips they’ve installed along Hwy 410. These weren’t even too bad most of the time, with just a couple of sections that were problematic at all.

After climbing for about 37 miles, we turned off toward Sunrise and that was when I found out Ward had never climbed to Sunrise before. That was during a brief discussion as I was changing my one and only flat of the day. That was 10 minutes of down time and as we rode through the gate, I asked the ranger if there was any snow on the ground, he said that there wasn’t but it IS snowing at the top, so there might by the time we get there. Very comforting. He just looked at us like we were nuts and off we went into the wild gray yonder.

There is no food or water at this time of year at the Visitor’s Center, so we needed to make sure we were topped off. 3 bottles should be sufficient (2 for drinking, one for making coffee at the top). Then it was all about CLIMB, BABY, CLIMB. 6% and 7% grades met us most of the way from there to the top, and while the temperature had climbed to a very comfortable 46 degrees, it now started to drop, hitting 39 by the time we hit Frying Pan Creek. Then about 5 miles from the top, we got our first hint of snow and rain, as it had dropped to 37. By the time we got to the scenic overlook and were riding in the “fog” which is a polite word for frozen precipitation it was down to 34 degrees and as we rounded the corner, Ward wanted to know, “Is this it?” NOPE. Another mile to go – well, it’s actually almost 2.5, but what do I know? Finally, we hit the summit, grabbed a photo of Ward in front of the elevation sign and noted the information for the question and answer session to follow in our brevet cards.

Onward to the pit toilets (we used to call these outhouses) and there, Boothby set up for an espresso. I hadn’t carried a stove, a can of gas, 2 coffee cups, sugar, a pound of coffee (actually only 2.5 oz, but I like to exaggerate about this just like I do about nice weather) and a silver spoon all the way to the top of a mountain only to be screwed out of my hot beverage. At 34 degrees, we found the stove to have more than one use. I lit it first while I was preparing the espresso maker, and we spent a few minutes warming our hands over the burner. Ahhhhh. What a great feeling after such a long climb. Finally, the coffee was ready, we toasted our success, downed our java, packed up the goodies and set off down the mountain.

That was when the real fun began. Two different strategies, pretty much the same result. Ward decided to take it slow, I decided to get off the mountain as quickly as I could. By now, it was snowing harder and sticking on the side of the road, but not yet on the pavement. It stayed 34 degrees all the way to Frying Pan Creek, and the precipitation never let up, though the snow started to turn to rain from that point on. I would ride as fast as I could until my face and hands were totally numb, then slow down, “warm up” a bit, and then off I’d go again. Finally arriving at the ranger station after 15 miles, my teeth were chattering, I was shivering so hard my bike was shaking, and when I got off the bike, I spent a few minutes doing jumping jacks to warm up and a few minutes later, Ward showed up shivering and HIS bike shaking, too.

From there, it’s a nice pretty much constant downhill to Greenwater, where we stopped for a snack and hot coffee, and back on the bikes for the final 28 miles.

Now, something I’ve learned about SIR over the years is that their routes like to punish me early and often, and especially, they like to save a nice little hillclimb for the end of a ride. Today was no different. After leaving Enumclaw, we rode for about 4.5 miles, all the while wondering when’s the hill going to hit. Then we saw the downgrade sign and with a fast 4% descent for a mile, we crossed over the Green River Gorge and then we were treated to a nice little 7% for almost the last mile of the ride. With legs that felt like a two cement blocks, I struggled my way along, far behind Ward who seemed not to be phased by any of it, and then, with just one more little climb, there was the Cenex station, and the finish line. After a mere 10 hours and 28 minutes, we’d managed to climb to Sunrise, probably on the last available day of 2008 cycling season. Not bad work if you can get it.

01 October 2008

Safe To Ride At Night????

After a cyclist was struck by a car from behind recently and killed, I was asked if I thought it was safe to ride a bike at night or not. After some thought, here is what I came up with.

Personal safety, consideration for others, a sensible approach to cycling behaviors and a general desire to be an accepted part of traffic lead me to pretty much obey the traffic safety laws as ordained by our somewhat civilized society. That said, I have been known to run a stop sign or light occasionally, and have actually MISSED seeing a stop sign and one time went through a red light from a dead stop because I looked up at the green light for cross traffic and mistook it for mine. Total boneheaded mistake that almost cost me my life. I am far from perfect, and have no expectations that others should be. That is true whether they are on a bicycle or driving a car (or walking for that matter). We are all subject to making foolish errors in judgment and as humans, we make mistakes. I personally don't believe the incidence of cars striking bicycles is in any greater proportion than cars striking other cars or possibly striking pedestrians. Not sure of what the statistics are of cars hitting bikes in the dark versus light. I guess we could do a lot of research on this, but it just seems to me to be pretty even. One thing I know is that riding my bike to work and back almost every day (167 days this year in 9 months) and riding for recreation on weekends (a total of almost 8,000 miles so far), I am confronted daily with situations that require my attention to be focused well on the task at hand (i.e., paying attention to my cycling) and not letting my attentions wander off onto something else. This is also true when I'm operating a motor vehicle or walking down the street. I see fender benders between two cars quite frequently while riding to work. I have witnessed only one car/bike accident.

Now about riding at night. I have really really - i mean REALLY - good headlight and tail light systems. I wear reflective clothing, have reflective striping on my bike in strategic areas and try to choose my routes for night-time riding based on safety issues, though this is not always possible. I liked what Pansy said about the use of trails at night. There is one particular street that I decided I wouldn't ride up at night anymore because I had a fear that I might get mugged. But I feel more invisible a lot of times during the daylight hours than I do at night. On a bright sunny day, riding a road that has a lot of tree-lined areas where I am constantly from bright sunlight to shadows, I am frequently concerned that drivers may not see me when I am in the shaded areas and their eyes are adjusting. This is sorta like what happens when we drive into a tunnel and have to turn our lights on. For this reason, I frequently have a flashing tail light on during the daytime.

Similarly, when the sun is at bad angles, drivers have a difficult time seeing ANYTHING, even with sunglasses on, and it is easy to miss the fact that a bike is there. Not only that, I see cars earlier in the dark than I do in the daylight. Cars approaching a blind curve in the daylight are not blind to me at night. I can't count the number of times I've almost been hit head on by cars coming across the yellow line in a curve in broad daylight. At night, I know they're coming and can be even further to the right than I would normally be, and better prepared for their approach.

Where riding at night is more dicey for me than riding in the daytime is the debris, holes, cracks and other road hazards that are more difficult to see because my lights, while excellent, don't allow me to see things as far in advance as I'd like to, and as far out as I can in the daylight, so I've ended up running over things (like the piece of a tailpipe that was pretty much the same color as the pavement until I got real close) that I would have seen had it been light.

And for my money, riding at night up until about 10:00 pm is really pleasant most of the time. After that, as more and more people are leaving the bars and the percentage of alcohol affected drivers continues to increase until an hour or so after bar closing, I don't feel real safe. As I ride through the night, I consider every driver that either approaches from the rear or comes straight at me to be a drunk. I become hyper vigilant and am pretty much under constant alert and am prepared to run myself into a ditch if need be to avoid being hit by a drunk driver. Of course, we can all be hit by a drunk driver at noon, too, but the percentages go up.

Unlike some cyclists who have a great fear of night riding, I love riding after dark. Some of my favorite times on a bike have been riding under a big old full moon with a mist settled into the farm fields and the quiet peacefulness of the night singing softly to me as I pedal along in awe of my planet and surroundings. It's all a matter of preparedness, planning and proper execution.

I participate in a dangerous sport. I do it willingly, and most of all, I try to do it in a way that is as safe as possible. I trust that drivers will do the same, but also believe in the old adage of "trust but verify" and do what is necessary to protect my own life.

27 September 2008

Welcome to Autumn in the Northwest

#25 (24 Sept 2008) (and #5 for the month of September!!!)

M: 152.1
T: 9:30 (on the button)
TT: 15:15 (approximately)
AV: 16.01
E: 4,701' (of mostly rollers)

RUSA Permanent #84 - South Hood Canal; with Mark Thomas, Jon Muellner and Steve Davis. Total Time for the official distance of 133.5 miles was 9:56 for Mark and I, the other guys were about 20 minutes or so behind us. Rode to the start and back home, even though Mark offered me a ride home in a nice warm car and the offer was mighty tempting.

This ride started with a 4:15 alarm, followed by almost burning the house down (trying to see if I could duplicate Pansy's stupid kitchen tricks)by turning the wrong burner on. After a nice breakfast of oatmeal, loaded Katrina and out the door at about 05:20 for a sprint to the ferry. Mark met me and we met the other two at Starbucks on the Bremerton side and took off at 07:30, riding out of Bremerton, picking up the Old Belfair Hiway then thru Union, Potlatch and stopping for coffee and pastries at Hoodsport Coffee Company (a must stop if you go).

Jon and Mark in Hoodsport

Boothby Needs Coffee

Mark told me they had really good ice cream, but I had to earn it first, which meant riding the rolling hills to Brinnon and back. GREAT IMPROVEMNTS on this stretch as DOT has just laid new asphalt and widened the shoulders a little bit. Quick stop in Brinnon to refill water bottles, have a quick fueling up and I noticed we were at 66.6 miles (the exact distance, I noted, of Pansy's "big" ride the other day - and we were only halfway there). It had started to rain by this time, and we were getting pretty well drenched, but at least it was warm. Mark and I started to really pull away from Steve and Jon and arrived back in Hoodsport about 15 minutes ahead of them, me being strongly motivated by Mark mentioning how good a warmed up apple danish topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream would be right about now - 10 miles out - my pace increased by a good 2 mph!!! Gotta say, it was scrumptious, along with the mocha. The rain let up for a little bit, but continued off and on into Belair again, and then as we were climbing the last hill by Gorst, it really started to pour, and what a lovely deluge. I'd kept telling Mark I thought the sky was starting to blue up a bit and he called me delusional. By the time we hit Hwy 16 coming into Bremerton, we were nearly drowned. I got a great second wind and was hitting 24 - 26 mph coming down the stretch, til I realized I was dropping my partner, and slowed down. Turning the corner onto Burwell, we just had that one last hill - 10% for about 3 blocks, then a coast to the finish.

Boothby at the Finish

I'll Have a Triple Shot Please!

After coffee and a donut, the other guys showed up and we stopped for sausages and fries, then hit the 6:40 ferry, arriving back in Seattle right at 7:45 and home by 8:35. A fantastic day playing in the rain with the guys.

15 September 2008

When The Moon Kisses The Olympics - THAT'S AMORE!!!

This was one of those mornings that anyone familiar with the Pacific Northwest and its penchant for dark, dreary days has firmly planted in their memory banks. We draw on them from time to time to remind us why we stay here.

Leaving the house, I could see the brilliant blue orb of a moon through the trees. I pointed it out to Mimi as we kissed goodbye, me pushing my bike out the door, she getting prepared to leave by car. It was still dark as I rode out, but there was a blood red glow on the eastern horizon as I rounded the corner by Wing Luke School, heading north.

By the time I got to East Marginal Way, the sky was starting to lighten, and the moon was beginning to pick up the early morning reflections. There was very little traffic this morning and even riding my "long route" I still managed to make it to the LaFarge Plant right at 6:30, in time for the morning whistle. Life is good, I thought to myself.

Crossing back over the Duwamish at Spokane, there was a single bike in front of me casting a dark shadow at the top of the bridge with the tender's tower showing as a huge black behemoth in comparison. I had ridden hard and fast to make the 6:30 whistle, but now I was in full relaxed mode and once again headed north along the waterfront, enjoying the changing colors of the eastern horizons and the downtown Seattle skyline. By the time I got to the ferry terminal, I had decided to stay on the waterfront, debating whether to go straight to the office or not. But as I rode along, I could now see the majestic Olympics across the sound, the ferry coming across the glass like water and with the gull's songs and salty air to help me feel like a part of a fantastic moment in time, my decision was made for me. Riding through the Sculpture Park and into Myrtle Edwards Park, I noticed that "The Father" was showing in the fountain, with "The Son" hidden.

As I rode north, I thought to myself that those riders coming the other direction were missing perhaps the most splendid moonset we have witnessed this year, with the big full moon hangning lazily above the black outline of the mountains and a rose pink haze across the entire area. Then the Olympics started to show the first signs of the sun peeking out for the day, and in that moment, I turned for just a moment to realize my fellow bike commuters weren't missing anything as they were riding to the south with a view of the sunrise beginning to highlight a glorious Mt. Rainier.

I rode on northward past the grain terminal, and watched as the moon gently kissed the Olympics and began to sink slowly beyond the jagged ridge of mountains that shelter us from the raging storms that batter the northwest coast. It all seemed so gentle and quiet. The homeless man who always sits on that same bench just before the turn glanced up and made eye contact with me, and we seemed to share just a moment of grace, each with our own experiences, our own burdens, but for just this one moment, a shared understanding of our planet for what it truly is. His eyes seemed bright today, and unafraid for just a moment.

I made the bend east before turning around and as I almost sadly turned back south, knowing that I was now truly on my way to the office, I saw the utter brilliance of Mt. Rainier, glowing with the luminescence of a fire opal, rising grandly to the southeast, truly the gem of our beautiful region. I was totally overwhelmed with the grandeur of this marvelous little place in which I am allowed to take my few breaths, and reminded once again of just how much I have to be grateful for today.

Then, as is the case every morning, I had to eventually make that decision about which street I would attack the climb up to Belltown, choosing Cedar today, both for the challenge of the 2-block, 12% climb and the prayerful laps around the Chief Seattle statue by the 5-Point. And as I turned south onto Fifth Avenue, I was greeted by yet another marvel. Fresh Asphalt along the entire section of this street had been laid over the weekend, all the parking meters were still hooded so I didn't have to negotiate around parked cars, and I was able to finish the morning's 17 mile commute without a care in the world.

Life is, indeed, beautiful.

26 August 2008

The Drowned Rat Days of Summer

In some places they may have the Dog Days of Summer, those long, hot, humid days at the end of August when everything moves slowly and the evenings are warm and muggy. Not so in Seattle this year. In the past week, we've had over 2" of rain, complete with thunder and lighting storms, downpours followed by sun spots and mostly large, black clouds that just keep rolling over the skyline. I sit in my 11th floor office gazing out at the Space Needle (when I can see it) and am amazed at this beautiful thing called WEATHER. Welcome to what I have now come to know as the Drowned Rat Days of Summer. What makes it special for me is that I get to ride my bicycle to work and back almost every day. What a great way to spend my time. Yesterday, everybody came into work complaining about how long it took them to get to work in that nasty traffic. Sorry, folks, I didn't notice.

Well, last night certainly was an interesting commute home. It had been dry and in the mid-50's in the morning, with predictions of "just a few LIGHT showers" in the forecast. About 4:00, I saw this huge wall of water working its way across Puget Sound, accompanied by these brilliant lightning strikes. I watched this marvel move across downtown and it was going-home-time. Not really wanting to become a ligthing rod, I waited almost an hour and rode out on the tailing edge of the storm, after the lightning was done and the thunder had moved off to the southeast (over my house by then). It was still raining hard, and before I got to 12th and Jackson I was starting to feel bits of water seeping into my shoes. I could have gone straight home, but it was relatively warm at 58 degrees, so figured I might as well head down to the lake and play in the puddles for a while since I was gonna be drenched no matter what. So I crossed over on the I-90 trail chatting with a guy who lives near Seward Park and also rides every day. He headed south while I headed north out of the tunnel, and I dropped down into Leschi. I was tempted to stop for a hot chocolate, but all of a sudden the sun came out so figured I'd best hang with it while I had a break in the clouds. Going south along the lake, I got this really beautiful evening sky with a double full rainbow in the east and a sliver of a 3rd smaller one just above the lake. At one point, I felt like I was riding in the middle of the rainbow. I figured that was the pot of gold, it was so pretty out. Then the sun went away, another black cloud came over and without the fanfare of thunder and lighting, the skies opened up on me once more just as I was coming into Seward Park. I had been figuring on maybe doing a little park loop just for giggles, but with the rain really coming down with full force now, thought better of that plan as my feet were now squishing in my shoes and the temp had dropped 4 degrees. I climbed the hill west of the park and dropped down to Rainier Beach, where the sun once again decided to make a brief appearance. As I headed west on Henderson, the sun was bright and in my face. It was blindingly bright and I worried a bit that cars behind me couldn't see me, so had to be a little extra cautious, but not for long, as the sun disappeared behind yet another dark and ominous cloud just as I started up Carkeek Blvd, and by the time I made it up to the top of Beacon Hill, it was starting again. By the time I made my right turn onto S. Rose Street, it was coming down pretty good again, and I was just hoping that my garage remote would still work, since it was in my jersey pocket and I wasn't sure how dry it was. Luckily, the door opened on cue, I bounced the gate open with the front wheel, and rode into the warm, dry garage. After a quick wiping down of Cayuse, I grabbed my gear and made my way into the house where Mimi had made a big batch of my favorite comfort food, macaroni and cheese, and within a few minutes, I was enjoying a nice hot meal and watching Monday Nite Football.

This morning as Mimi and I rode out into the nearly dark morning, it occurred to me that I should have lubed the chain. Gotta remember to do that tonite. At least all my lights are working. It won't be long before I need them to see, not just be seen.

08 August 2008

Life's Little Curveballs

Sometimes, life throws us little curveballs.

Insurance claims work is usually pretty dry, distant, detached work. We get claims in, investigate them, process them, and either pay or deny them. We deal a lot with attorneys, doctors, accountants, forensic experts, police and fire departments, and other investigative types. Our claimants range anywhere from apologetic because they have cost the insurance company money and are afraid we're going to cancel them now, to angry and demanding that we pay them, no matter how outrageous their claim may be just because they paid us a premium for something.

Well, this morning, I received a most interesting phone call. The man's name was Lonnie, no last name given. He started by saying he wasn't sure who he should be talking to, but started into this story about how in 1970 or so he had insurance he thought through Fireman's Fund. He said he'd gone to a local agent and because of his driving record, he was placed into a pool and he thought it was Fireman's Fund they placed him with, and during that year, he'd had two incidents occur. The first one was an accident in which he hit 3 dogs that ran out in front of him. Because of how he hit one of the dogs, it damaged a piece of sheet metal under the front bumper of his GTO. He never got it fixed. Later, he had an accident in which he struck another vehicle, causing damage to his own car as well, and he filed a claim. When he went to the shop, he had them add that piece of metal into the repairs and charged the insurance company for it as part of the claim. He knew it was wrong, but did it anyway.

Having heard his story, I told him I thought fate was a funny thing, and that I believed he had called exactly the correct person, because while I couldn't do anything about the claim, I was in a place to talk to him about what was really going on. I was able to disclose a little of my own life through 12-step recovery and we talked about the process of making amends, seeking forgiveness, granting forgiveness and making right our wrongs, cleaning up the wreckage of our past. So for the next 20 minutes, we talked about life, the surgery he is facing next week and in the end, I instructed him to put an extra $20 in the collection plate the next time it comes around, forgive the next person who does him a wrong without their having to ask for that forgiveness and consider the matter done, granted him forgiveness of the debt on behalf of Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, and advised him that the statute of limitations was long since expired for something that occurred in 1970.

He was a little surprised when I thanked him for calling me. He didn't understand. I had to explain that having been on his end of that phone call so many times in my own amends making process, it is a true gift from God when I get placed in a position to be on this end of the phone call for a change. He chuckled, with a little different understanding. We then talked a little about confession and living our lives in accordance with a higher set of principles and we both hung up wishing each other a good weekend.

This is how I pictured my new friend as I was talking to him:

picture credit: Mimi Torchia-Boothby ( www.mimitabby.com )

Life's little curveballs sometimes end up being home runs.


12 May 2008

Tom's Mother's Day Spaghetti Sauce

Yesterday was Mothers Day, and I told my sons I wanted them to start taking the reins for our family celebrations of this holiday. So, Tom and Josiah, and Tom's fiance Megan met Mimi at 9:30 in the arboretum for a nice walk amongst the rhododendrons. I, in the meantime, stayed home and made a couple of pies. Mimi and I had an opera date at 2 pm and then we were invited to Tom and Megan's for dinner with them and Josiah, and Carmen/Henry. Josiah, Tom and Megan had worked all day to make us a really special dinner. We sat down to a lovely dinner of Mimi's favorite, Flank Steak, and pasta with a delicious red sauce that Tom made. This morning, Mimi sent Tom and Josiah thank you emails and told them how much she enjoyed Tom's sauce, asking how he'd made it. Here is his response:

2 boxes chopped tomatos, 1 box tomato sauce
4 hot sausages da Pino (I'd eaten one earlier in the week)
4 portabello mushrooms, roughly 1 inch cubed
1 onion
~6 cloves of garlic
1 or 2 sprigs of fresh oregano (the only plant that's survived from last year)
1 package of basil
"enough" salt
dash of oil to keep the onion & sausage from sticking to the pan
love for one's mother

With that recipe, how could one fail?

09 May 2008

Ode To A Donut

I've seen the world through the hole in a donut
It wasn't a pretty sight
I've eaten each cruller and muffin and whatnot
I've eaten a pie at midnight.

I've ridden my bike in big circles
I've tried to keep my weight down,
I've failed in these efforts big time
I've eaten my way through this town.

I've come to confess to the masses
I've eaten both my share and theirs
I've eaten so much pie and donuts
I've got to where I need two chairs.

22 April 2008

Bike Route For Mimi

Here's a bike route that will get one from Plant II (Boeing Field) across the First South Bridge and then to Alki. There are two sorta dangerous traffic crossings, first turning off East Marginal Way onto River Street to get to the bike lane across the bridge, then again at Marginal Place SW - a short little block long street that dead ends at the Spokane Street Bike Trail. The Duwamish Trail is pretty nice, extending from the time you come off the First Ave S. Bridge until north of Terminal 107 Park, but it dead ends out onto West Marginal and you've got about 4 blocks of what can be pretty heavy traffic and no left turn lane. An alternative is to continue along West Marginal and UNDER the bridge, which is ok for going to Alki, but not for heading east to go downtown.

10 April 2008

Donald's Beacon Hill ZigZag

Having just gone over the 2,500 mile mark for the year yesterday (heck, until 2 years ago, I'd never done more than that in a YEAR), I decided I needed a little bit of celebratory ride, so took an extra little bit of time tonight to give myself a really awesome commute home from work.

It all started out with having to stop at Pike Street Market to pick up a couple pounds of broccoli rabe for my nephew Chris' birthday party Saturday. We love that stuff, and I promised Ma-in-Law (Carmen) I'd have some. So I left the office and when I pulled in to the produce stand, the guy knew exactly what I was looking for. I suppose when a guy rides up on a custom black and red bike as distinguishable as mine is 6 or 8 times over a month period and always buys nothing but broccoli rabe, he might eventually figure it out, right? So, paying my $7.00, I pack my booty safely away and head off down 1st Avenue until I can drop over to the waterfront. Haven't figured out how I want ot go to get home yet, thinking I don't really want to go out the Duwamish, I came in that way today. Don't want to just go up Beacon, I've been doing that a lot. Hmmm. Maybe I should tackle Holgate. That's 11 and 12 percent a good part of the way up for a half mile. Yes, no, yes no. Back and forth with myself. Aw, what the heck. GO FOR IT!. So after almost getting creamed by an inattentive driver who was holding a cigarette in one hand and a cell phone in the other, punching buttons to dial while leaving the light, I cautiously let all the traffic go, swept over to the left lane and with my now nearly 40 pound bike, climbed up to 13th, dropping down through a little gully before having another little one-block grinder to McLellan. That's when I decided do have some fun. I'm gonna do a BEACON HILL ZIG-ZAG tonight. There are several roads straight up and down Beacon Hill, west and east sides, and I've ridden pretty much all of them. So if I go down one, up the next, down the next, I eventually get home. So I dropped down McLellan to the east and was going to go up Cheasty, but it is now closed for repaving as part of the light rail project. So I had to go over the "corkscrew" pedestrian bridge over Rainier and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd and dropped to the east side of Rainier and headed south through the neighborhood back streets, coming out by Safeway and Hollywood Video. There is a little shortcut with a really steep hill I've never ridden on that goess between MLK and Rainier, so I figured to myself, "Self, we oughtta head up that little bugger." So I did. I measured 23% for just a couple seconds, VDO said max. sustained climb was 20%. Then it was through the new housing development and up Columbia Way, then around a dead end loop, just for s&g's and back to Columbian to where I could actually get through and I wove my way up and down some more steep little zig zags until I dumped out to the Chief Sealth Trail, heading still southerly to Myrtle. I should have gone down Orcas and up Graham, but it was starting to get to be dinner time. Heading west on Myrtle, I needed to stop and get a gallon of milk and a bunch of vegetables, then headed back down hill just so I could do ONE LAST CLIMB before heading for the barn and finally coming up to Webster and a little left rigt left right and with a nice little 11 mile after-work ride, managed to get a little over 1,000' of climbing in. I weighed the bike when I got off. FIFTY-EIGHT pounds!!!

What doesn't make me walk, makes me stronger.


Somebody asked me recently when would the price of gas be so high that it would force me to make changes in how I view my relationship to the automobile. Well, I'd had enough a long time ago, and it wasn't just about the price of gas. We are a nation of greedy little piggies. I've already foregone driving out of state for 1 ride this year, and am probably foregoing another one, as well. My next vacation will be spent totally on bicycle, 4 days of just me, my lovely Katrina and the road (if the weather cooperates at all, that is). Like my foster father used to say, it's gonna get worse 'fore it gets better.

So what are you willing to give up, that remains the question? Are you willing to give up the comfort of a nice warm car during those cold and dark winter days and ride your bike to work come hades or high water? Are you willing to ride to the start line instead of driving, or give up rides that require you to drive more miles to and from the ride than the ride itself? Are you willing to put racks and panniers on your bike and use it as a utilitarian machine to do your chores instead of simply a hobby? Are you willing to take extra hours per week changing clothes from bike stuff to work stuff back to bike stuff and take on the added laundry burden of that? Are you willing to spend the added time in maintaining your bike because you are riding in conditions you would otherwise not ride in (i.e., rain, slush, etc.)? What else?

For me, I was tired of being one of the freeway drones every morning and every evening, sitting stuck in rush hour traffic and spending 45 to 90 minutes each way to get to my office and home. I was tired of trying to find solutions to make my commute more tolerable. I was tired of getting to work stressed out, leaving work stressed out and arriving home stressed out. I was tired of getting to work with a headache and feeling nauseous some days and tired of a general sense of anger when I had to get in the car to drive to and from work. Price of gas? I wish it would go higher. I wish it would get so high that more of us would simply say, I'm taking the bus. I'm riding my bike. I'm taking the train. We are a nation made up of individuals who think they are so entitled to every luxury, a life of leisure and we as a nation have a very poor sense of social responsibility.

I made my choice last March. I had a new bike, my job was going better than it ever had, I was at a pinnacle in the company I worked for and well respected by my peers. But I was sitting on the ferry on my way to a claim inspection when I heard of an opportunity that I thought might get me out of so much travel, allow me to make some positive change in my lifestyle and after considerable thought, a call to my wife to see what she thought, a call to my sponsor to run it by him and a call to a good friend to seek his wisdom, I made the jump. I am here a year later with a new job that pays more money, doesn't EVER require me to drive a car, allows me to ride my bike or bus every day and I know where I'm going to be sleeping tonight. I am up by 5:30, on my bike by 6:15, in the office by about 7, on BikeJournal for a half hour before chagning into work clothes and starting to "work", and there when everybody else trickles in complaining of bad traffic, bad weather, bad bus experiences, bad experiences with other pedestrians and the like. I, meanwhile, when asked by co-workers (as they are wont to do) how I am, can almost always respond "GREAT! Life is beautiful. Isn't it a beautiful morning?" When they complain about the cold, I chuckle to myself. When they carp and whine about freeway traffic, the price of gas, the price of parking and the like, I laugh uproariously (to myself, of course)and have a few things posted around my cube that really identifies that I rode in, and everybody sees me in my bike clothes morning and night. In the afternoon, when I leave, I have just spent 9 hours in a very stressful job, but I get on my bike and RIDE. By the time I get home, the stress is melted away.


09 April 2008

So what did that dream mean, anyway?

The bicycle is, of course, a bicycle. Me is, obviously, me. The bridge and road I am riding on is my life direction. The spiraling to the left, I think, is confusion as to possible direction of my life. The sudden end of the pathway and dropoff down to the water, I think, represents a major crossroads and life change. The water, I recall, was very murky and brown. I think this is indicative of a lot of stress and uncertainty about where things are headed, how I feel about some personal things going on in my life, and a bit of trepidation about my commitment to riding vs. commitment to other things and how I am placing priorities in my life. Of course the sinking and a feeling of drowning is pretty classic symbolism of a feeling of being overwhelmed. The decision to let go and rise above whatever is going on shows a need for decision and action, and I remember thinking as I was coming out of the dream and back into reality I was going to have to figure out how to get the bike back, so the action I took in the dream was obviously to not allow the bicycle to be the dominant factor in my life.

I tend to be a bit of an all or nothing kind of guy. I think it is a very real part of my nature. Balance is not my strongest suit and, like other forms of compulsive-obsessive behaviors (in my life, my chemical addictions) there are such definite good payoffs to cycling (e.g., increased endorphine levels, better physical and mental health, easier to keep weight off, feeling better about myself because I'm trying to do a really healthy thing) that they tend to foster that all or nothingness and I can easily end up allowing the bike to take control of my life. Of course, I've been trying to modify some of this year's cycling to do more by doing less, and it's going with some interesting results, both positive and not so positive. So this dream, then, seems to me to be a bit of a release of some of the confusion and tension I've been feeling about this process of introspection I take on.

Geez, how did I get so serious all of a sudden??????

08 April 2008

Last Night's Dream

Last night I was awakened by a dream. Not necessarily a bad dream, but definitely not what I'd consider a good dream, by any stretch of the imagination.

I was riding along, enjoying the springlike weather. It was warm and I had on shorts and short jersey. It was yellow and blue, so I am thinking it must have been my new Sacramento Wheelmen jersey. I had been riding along on the street, but was coming to a waterway. I think it was the ship canal between the Ballard Locks and Lake Union, though the scene was a little different than what I know that area to be. There was a bridge over the waterway. There was an exit from the street/trail whatever I was riding on, going left and appeared to be at the same level as what I was on, though the trail going that direction was a bit lower. I executed a left turn, and spiraled around in a circular counter-clockwise rotation to get from where I was onto the trail, but at the last minute discovered that the pavement I was on ended abruptly with a 3' or so dropoff down to the river. I got my bike 90 degrees to the edge, but was unable to remain upright and fell over to my right side, falling, still straddling my lovely Katrina, into the water. I sank like a rock until I finally realized I could either go to the bottom with my bike or let go of the bike and swim to the surface. I thought about this for a bit and finally let go of the bike, and woke up as I was just about to break the surface of the water. I was left in a half-sleep trying to figure out how I was going to get my bike back out of the murky river which was very deep.

01 March 2008

Flaming Booger Ride - Redmond Cycling Club

Or perhaps we should start to call this the Flaming GEEZERS Ride, based on the overall average age of our gang. Today, we had five machines out there, 3 tandem teams consisting of Greg & Ruth Sneed on the Green and Gold Machine, Linda Knapp & Max Maxon on Linda's wonderful DaVinci and Ken Condray with Ralph Nussbaum stoking on Ken's brilliant Trek. Then there were Susan Cady and me on singles. Left Gene Coulon Park right on schedule at 9:00 am and wound our way down to pick up the Cedar River Trail, which we rode about 15 miles out to Maple Valley, where we paused leaving the trail for everyone (except me) to take off their raincoats. Then it was a series of backroads into Black Diamond for a "lunch" stop. After a nice break, we took off along Hwy 169 and cut off toward Flaming Geyser State Park and through the Green Valley, turning off back toward Black Diamond on Auburn/Black Diamond Road. Left that nightmarishly busy road for another very quiet and scenic climb up 168th, turning onto (I think) 340th, where we eventually picked up Soos Creek Trail which we rode to its end in Renton. After a short stint on 140th, we crossed over Petrovitsky Road for a screaming 40+ mph descent back to the Cedar River Trail and back to the park. I was the only one who rode to the start line - 5 cars in the parking lot, and none of them were mine!!! I tuned off onto N 4th in Renton and headed off toward home. The sun was out and a nice southerly breeze, so called Mimi and asked if she wanted to meet me and do a short ride. She seems to think I need to ride 50 or 60 miles before she and I ride together - that will wear me out (right!) enough so I'll be slowed down to her pace. She agreed to meet me, so I took off from the Renton Airport and turned north onto Rainier Ave. S. where I overtook a rider riding along futzing with his gear. As I passed him, he tucked in behind me and hung on my wheel. I kicked it up a gear. He hung in. I kicked another gear, and hit 24, he stayed right on my wheel. The guy is puffing and panting back there and I've got 2 gears to go. I'm having fun now with a little tailwind, good bike lane and Elmer Fudd chasing me down. He's a few years older than me, and we've not said a word to each other. Click. Another gear. Push a little harder. 26 mph. He tucks in and holds on for dear life. I've got just one more gear, but now there is a little bit of a rise for a quarter mile so I drop the gear back and back to about 22. I look in my mirror and he looks relieved. I still don't say a word. Then I see a recumbant ahead - all black. Looks like a really heavy guy with lots of bags. We crest the little bump and I kick it into overdrive. 27. 27.5 and this guy is right on my tail. I'm smiling as I overtake the recumbant and shout out a quick howdy do as we pass him by. We're now just about to the last little turn before Rainier Beach. I drop to the middle chain ring and pull off to the right. "Is this the end of your ride?" My wheelsucker says. "Yep," I say, "I'm just heading over to meet my wife. My 70 are done." Actually it was only 68.5 at that point. He tells me thanks, mentions that it was a really fun pull along the lake and takes off. Recumbant guy pulls up along side and in a very thick German accent asks if I know the way to Seward Park. I give him directions and turn off toward Seward myself, with a left onto Henderson to meet Mimi, and a farewell wave back and forth with Recumbant Guy. After stopping at Rite Aid to grab a Gatorade, Mimi and I take off, ride to Seward Park and just as we're coming in, get stopped for a few minutes by the flagger where somebody took out a fire hydrant last night. They've been working ever since to clean up the massive mess it created. As we head north, there is Recumbant Guy plugging his way along the lake. We're in almost full sun now, and the afternoon is beautiful and warm. Exit the lake at Sayres Pits and after a quick stop at CycleWorks, meander our way along to Orcas, up the hill, and along Beacon to home, stopping just long enough at Youngs Market to pick up an onion for my bean soup.

Ah, but now it's dinner time. I'm outta here. Here's a little photoshoot I did along the way if you're interested.

Flaming Booger - 2008 (Redmond Cycling Club)

See ya up the road.

21 January 2008

South End Ramble

With temperature of 28 when I set out, I knew it was going to be quite a ride, but the roads were clear, only a couple of frozen puddles to deal with, and I'd gotten and email from Mimi saying she'd left her glasses, so I started out by riding down to Boeing and dropping them off. From there, it was through Tukwila along the Interurban trail, and onto the Green River trail at I-405. 2 miles farther south, though, I started to see glare ice. At first, I went off the pavement and onto the dirt shoulder of the trail, but even that had puddles of slick glare ice, and just wasn't safe, so I got off and walked to S. 180th, about a quarter mile. By this time, the trail was totally impassable, so I portaged off down into Costco's parking lot, and slip-slided my way walking out to the main street. There had been a big ice storm that I discovered had pretty much messed up a 2 mile stretch, and ended up walking my bike for quite a ways rather than fall and break a hip. Ended up stopping for almost an hour and letting it warm up a bit before heading out to West Valley Highway, and then eventually over to the Interurban trail and out toward Auburn Golf Course. Found a trail I'd never seen before at 277th, and did the one mile climb to the top, 370' of elevation gain, thinking I'd get onto the street and fly down, but when I got to the top, the street said NO BICYCLES - 17% grade. DANG!!!!! So it was back down the trail, stopping to chat a bit with an old couple walking up who had been friendly when I passed them the other direction. Into downtown Auburn and north on the Interurban to 295th(?) and over to West Valley Hwy to the south end of Kent Golf Course and onto Frager Road. Where there had been no sun, it was still icy and I found a great old dilapidated car, thinking that when all bikes look like mine and all cars look like that, it'll be a much nicer world. Then I got back to where the ice storm had come through and the trail was still iced in, so went back to the main streets, over to Renton and up the east side of Lake Washington to Mercer Island where I stopped to watch three bald eagles soaring for a while, two of them landing in a nearby tree. After a coffee stop at Tullys on Mercer, I ran around through downtown MI looking for a candy store that used to be there. Guess it move. Found a really nice fountain, though and called Mimi to let her know I'd stop at Mutual Fish and pick up something nice for dinner. I didn't buy the octopus, but it was pretty. Here's a little slide show I put together on Webshots:

Southend Solo Ramble - 1/21/08

20 January 2008


Last night, we went to bed to rain, the weatherman was talking about snow and Mimitabby was worried. “I guess we’ll ride the bus to the opera tomorrow, huh?” she asked me on the way toward the bedroom. I reassured her I had more optimism, and would wait to see what it turn out to be.

We woke to dark gray clouds, and it was still raining lightly. About 8:30, having a good breakfast in me, I went outside to have a good look at the sky. Mimitabby stuck her head out the door and asked me if I was “catching raindrops”, but I reassured her that it looked like the skies were lightening up. Sure enough, by 10:00 we were starting to see holes, and I announced my intent to ride my bike to the opera, hoping she’d follow suit. Of course, she’s as game as I am for some things, so we got dressed up in our opera finest bike duds and headed off toward lower Queen Anne for a light sushi lunch before the opera.

Cute Couple

Since we were an hour early, we toured around Seattle Center, stopping in the warm(ish) sun at the Experience Music Project where a kindly young man took a photo for us.

Experience THIS

And then it was time to head in to the Opera House for a showing of Pagliacci. We managed to find a bit of time before the start to each try a little ballet:

Come Fly With Me

OK, I will

and then Donald wanted to get a picture of Mimi at “the sculpture”, a lovely work entitled “Equal and Opposite Reaction”. He managed to get the photo that she swore would never come out, but he also managed to get the evil eye – a benefit of marrying a good Italian girl.

Oh, My

Rubber Ducky

While Donald gadded about, renewing season subscriptions for next year, making one last trip to the bathroom, drinking a cup of coffee and wandering about watching cute girls, Mimi relaxed in our really great seats and took a few minutes to study the libretto.

Mimi Studies Libretto

It was just about time for the show to start, and once more, our happy couple got an opportunity to pose for just one more photo.

Cute Couple Again

Guest Conductor?

The opera was really well done. During the overture, Comedy and Tragedy entered and did a lovely pantomime, playing off each other in their contrasting black and white costumes. Then they rolled a trunk out, and introduced “Prologue”, who had one of the most fantastic baritone voices we have heard at Seattle Opera. Powerful, rich and full, he filled the grand auditorium with his introductory aria, setting the scene for this, one opera’s most beautiful contributions to the world of performing arts. Pagliacco, of course, sang his grand aria to end the first act impeccably and then there was a 20-minute intermission, during which Mimitabby again commented on how much she loves the red velvet curtains. Donald graciously “allowed” her to take his picture in front of them. They do kinda go nicely with all that red hair of his, don’t you think?

Then came the intermezzo, during which Canio’s Dream is portrayed by Comedy and Tragedy again, with a troupe of acrobats acting out the dream as the orchestra played their part flawlessly. Of course, in the end Pagliacco must kill off Nedda and her lover Silvio, and with tears in his eyes, Donald collected Mimi and after all 10 or so curtain calls, they headed off toward home.

As we rode through downtown, the sun was setting, so that by the time we got to Jackson, all that was left was a colorful gloriously cotton candy pink bunch of clouds off in the horizon, with the train station framed elegantly in the scene.

Jackson St. Facing West

Donald paused at the Jose P. Rizal Bridge to take a few shots that are so familiar to him from his evening commutes of late, reminding him that the sun has set on the season of both his Seattle Mariners and Seattle Seahawks.

Cotton Candy Clouds

Sunset over the sporting season

And before heading off to catch up to Mimitabby who had left him behind, he wistfully glanced back over downtown Seattle, reminiscing about this fine date with his favorite girl,

Donwtown Seattle
and thinking to himself what a fine week it has been WITHOUT EVER ONCE GETTING INTO A MOTORIZED VEHICLE!!!!

Why Does Boothby Want To Commute By Bike???

Why do I commute by bicycle you ask? Well, in a metropolitan area with over 2 million people competing for shrinking available space, roads that are jammed to capacity, drivers that are uptight, angry and aggressive, and working at a job that put me on the I-5 corridor for at least 45 minutes every morning and an hour every afternoon last year, I found myself becoming more and more stressed out in my life. OK, admittedly, the 2 hours of time spent cooped up in my car breathing exhaust fumes wasn't all of it. My job was stressful enough. And with the work I was doing, driving to the office was just a small portion of my on the job driving. In 2004/2005 I drove over 150,000 miles.

Now, I'm a guy who loves to drive. I was named after a racecar driver, Don Porter, from Redding, California. At the age of 5 I got in big trouble for driving Pop's '49 Plymouth coupe out of the driveway. All I did was push the clutch in and it rolled out of the driveway with me at the wheel, coming to a stop in the middle of the street. A year later, I took my sister's 26" girl's pink and white Schwinn, and coasted down 97th Street to Sandy, teaching myself to ride a bike. At 11, I got to drive Jack McCoy’s racecar around the track. He had to help me with the pedals. Later that day, he taught me how to shift gears in a street car with chunks of 2x4 taped onto the pedals so I could reach them. At 14, I did my first solo adventures in a car, both trips which netted me some genuine consequences, one of which resulted in me eventually arriving at a foster home on a 40 acre farm in Seal Rock, Oregon, where I learned how to operate Sonna and Butch's D-2 Cat. Throughout all of this, I only had one bicycle of my own, an old clunker Pop bought fixed up for my 10th birthday. It was stolen that summer out of our garage and he never got me another one.

After I got out of the Marines, I moved to Boise and rode my brothers Windsor Deluxe around town for chores. A couple of months later, Pop gave me a '62 Studebaker Lark. All was right the world. It burned a lot of oil and one morning it started to make some noise. We found it was very low on oil. David suggested I use the quart of transmission fluid we had in the trunk until we could get to the station. Six blocks later the engine seized and that was the end of the “stud” as I had named the green box of a car. I replaced it not with a bike but a 1949 International KB-1, and have never been without a car since, except for a one year period in 1975/76 when I lived in Portland and had a bicycle that I rode everywhere until it, too, was stolen. Then I walked or hitchhiked.

But I really liked to drive. As soon as I could afford one, I bought another truck. I love cars and love trucks even more. And even more than that, for some unexplainable reason, I love John Deere tractors.

In 1988, having received so many speeding tickets I was always at risk of losing my drivers license, I decided not to drive for a whole year. I bought a new Raleigh Technium Skylight and rode it to work every day. After a year, I got my drivers license back and forgot all about riding my bike, except for some short, family rides with my boys on the bike trail. I always made sure they had bikes. In 1991, a friend invited me to ride Chilly Hilly with him and in order to do so; I needed to get a few miles in. So I rode my bike to work a few days. Then we decided to do STP and needing to get in shape, started riding to work once or twice a week when weather was nice. Now the cycling bug really had me and I started to look for ways to bicycle rather than drive and got the kids interested in doing endurance cycling.

In 2006 I really began to look seriously at being a daily bicycle commuter. After two years living out of my car, and putting in over 150,000 miles behind the wheel, I needed to do two things; first was to stave off the effects of the depression I was developing from being exposed to so much devastation following seven hurricanes and adjusting claims with so many people who had lost so much, and second was to relieve some of the stress I had from spending so much time driving. Where once I truly loved driving, I found myself dreading driving to work every day. The dilemma was I needed car to do my job.

I tried various techniques in order to bike commute when I could, but it was difficult. With a ride of 27 miles one way, if I rode all the way into the office I needed to eat two breakfasts and was ready for a nap by 10:30 a.m. Typically, I would drive to the office on Monday and ride home, leaving the car at Logboom Park overnight. This gave me a 20-mile commute and I didn't have to finish the ride with a 7-mile climb, which left me sweaty, and without shower facilities. I tried busing part way, too. On numerous occasions, however, I would get assignments overnight that meant I needed my car leaving the house in the morning but it was in Lynnwood. It was never convenient and almost as stressful as driving because of all the complications.

When given the opportunity to change jobs in April 2007, I jumped at the chance. If it meant giving up some of my independence of being a field adjuster, it provided me with an opportunity to reduce my stress levels dramatically. Instead of spending a half hour every morning trying to prepare myself for a stressful drive to work, I found myself excited about leaving the house and arrived refreshed and with a clear head.

All of this of course is all on a personal level and doesn't take into account any of the political ramifications of my heavy reliance on oil during a time of war in which it appears to me that our principal interest is not as much based upon our interest in making the world a better place for others to live but rather, our interest in dominating the shrinking pool of resources in the world. It gives me great pleasure when I look at the last year of my life and know that I have at least done a small part to make us just a little less demanding of these precious resources and at the same time have done at least a little bit better in reducing greenhouse gases.

None of us is truly independent. Each day my decision whether to drive or ride my bike affects those around me. Of course, the bicycle is not a solution to all of the world’s energy problems. But in the greater scope of things, I believe I make the world a better place on two skinny little tires burning 600 calories on the way to work rather than a gallon of gas.

Politics and energy aside, I suppose the greatest reason I ride my bike to work is because I truly love riding my bike and would really rather do that than just about anything. The improved health, reduced stress, reduced expense, reduced greenhouse gases, reduced consumption of vital resources and everything else are simply a side benefit that is gained by doing something that is fun and I can't get enough of in the first place.