Friday, July 29

Sneaked in a Ride

Okay, I know I said I was off the bike until Monday no matter what, but last night a coffee shop in Olde Town was offering free coffee and ice cream and I wanted to take my family. I was feeling pretty good so I carefully rode the two miles to the coffee shop with Boone on the Cannonball.

My heart only skipped a beat or two as we approached the first railroad crossing between our house and town.

My shoulder felt good. Riding didn't hurt it, though I'm sure crashing again would be disastrous.

Later we drove to Golden and because I-70 was a rush-hour mess we took 44th. We crossed the tracks where I crashed and the whole family got to see the scene of the crime.

I drove in to work today. The thought had crossed my mind to ride, but I'm going to hold off til Monday for sure. Don't tell my doctor.

Wednesday, July 27

Reflection in the Rails

I'm going to call July at 303 miles. That's where I stood when I rolled into the Bikeport last Tuesday evening with a freshly separated shoulder. I won't be back on the bike before August 1st unless the zombie apocalypse occurs and we have to flee the city, but in that event I don't plan to keep noting my miles on MapMyRide. My recovery will just have to wait as well.

303 miles with five days off of work before my injury-resulting crash...not too bad. I would have been close to 500 with my normal commutes had I listened to the voice in my head that was screaming "TAKE 32nd!" last Tuesday.

The stress-related weight gain is back on as I resume my birthright sedentary lifestyle. I'm gonna have to start taking walks around the neighborhood until I am back on the wheel. Otherwise I may risk buckling a bike frame.

Stuff like this hits you out of the blue and takes you down a notch. I was riding pretty high with confidence before the crash. Maybe at this point I should be referring to it as The Crash for dramatic effect. Anyway, nothing was slowing me down. The day I wrecked I left work in the face of a thunderstorm...undeterred, unflinchingly confident that I'd be fine through whatever nature could throw at me. But it wasn't nature was it?

Well, I've done fairly well at staving off depression that would have plagued me in my younger years. Other than the physical discomfort I must admit that my convalescence has afforded me much relaxation of mind and body. I can't say a rest from pedaling everyday is a bad things. My legs should be fresh, if a bit weak, once I sit astride the saddle again in the near future. Unfortunately any boost in my endurance and strength gained from a June of intensive riding and hauling nearly a 100 pounds nearly a hundred miles over 4th of July weekend may be lost. Oh well...

I may never cross those railroad tracks on 10th Ave again. I can't decide. They ARE dangerous. I will write a letter to the City of Golden regarding the conditions there. I will also write the guys down the hall and implore them to do something about the drastic narrowing of the road at the railroad tracks. West of the tracks = City, east = County. The City has put in nice bike lanes along wide lanes right up to the tracks and then beyond there is not even a shoulder and the drive lanes themselves narrow. Bottleneck extraordinaire.


Blue was my direction of travel. Red "X" marks the spot.

Nearby on 44th where the RR tracks cross again (10th turns into 44th east of town) there is a bike-specific crossing which forces cyclists to cross at a 90° angle.


The difference in the two crossings is clear.

Water under the bridge, right? Not really, especially if it happens to me again or to someone else. Maybe at least signs? Do signs make a difference to me? Typically not.

What's really shaken me, down to my bones, is that a similar crash with one of my children on the bike would have been catastrophic. I would have never forgiven myself. And I think that may be where the true psychological damage is done. We'll see, when I get back on the bike, if I can transport them and still feel safe and responsible.

Ideologically nothing has changed. I still believe in the power of the bike for families with children. I still see the bike as a viable alternative to the automobile. But in practice how am I going to feel about it as I plan and execute trips on the bike with my family?

ADDENDUM:

When I look long and hard at the aerial image of the RR xing where I crashed I can see there is no safe way to cross them at a 90° angle. To do so would put the cyclist all the way across the lane of traffic and possibly into oncoming traffic. Without stopping and walking the bike across the tracks and then remounting IN the lane of traffic there is no safe option.

ADD-ADDENDUM:

At the end of June I had surpassed 2010 in mileage (2,480). I'm still on track to break 5,000 miles in 2011 despite the low mileage in July.

Tuesday, July 26

Moto-Fascist LOOK OUT!

Another moto-fascist sighting tonight. Of course I didn't see the MFer, it was my lovely wife and Bean on a grocery run.

They were leaving the grocery on the Ute, sitting at a red light waiting to cross from one shopping center parking lot to another, when a woman in a car pulled up on their rear wheel and laid on her horn.

"GET OUT OF THE WAY!" she bellowed.

Mandy shook her head 'no.' She'd taken the lane because of previous instances where inconsiderate motorists had almost clipped her making right turns. But of course the light was red so the moto-fascist had nowhere to go. She was just harassing my cycling wife.

Not only did Mandy have our four year old daughter with her, it was beginning to rain.

The 50-ish woman continued to scream obscenities and lay on her horn as they waited for light to change. She made her right turn as Mandy pulled away under a green light she called out her window ominously: "You better move next time or I'll make you move!"

You better move next time or I'll make you move?

Wow! Not only is she committing a misdemeanor by harassing a cyclist, she is also threatening and promising to commit a worse crime.

What ails people?

Saturday, July 23

Pondering Resilience

Being laid up with a bum shoulder leaves one ample time to catch up on back issues of Mother Earth News, research garden plans for next year and plot and plan a bike-garage/storage shed in the backyard for the near future.

Unfortunately, for one who has trouble sitting still, getting the creative waters churned up in such a manner frustrates the body and mind.

My newest scheme is blueberries. Next spring I'm going to put in three blueberry bushes along our fence. If I can identify more suitable space I may plant a few more.

Being laid up with a bum shoulder gives you plenty of time to bemoan not being born with a bamboo spoon in my mouth. If only I had a trust fund to invest in my hippie-dom.

MEN had an article in the issue just prior to the current entitled What the Right Bike Can Do for You that discusses different types of bikes and the benefits of cycling for your health, your pocketbook, the environment and your community.

I enjoyed the article, but wish the author had included cargo bikes.

So how 'bout John Boehner walking out of the budget talks? Doesn't it seem childish to you that our "leaders" will bicker over economic ideology when what we really need is some reality and common sense?

I jokingly told Mandy to put a 50 pound bag of brown rice on the grocery list yesterday. Well, maybe only half-jokingly...

Once my wing is a little stronger I'm going to learn to make a solar still.

Friday, July 22

Healing Speed Friday: Stir Crazy in My House

Ugh! Third day down.

The pain is still distinctly there, but there is a subtle improvement. I can raise my arm almost horizontal before it starts hurting.

My presence in the house has thrown the routine completely off kilter. I need to get back on my own routine. I'm gonna give work a go on Monday. I'm gonna have some catching up to do. And I'm afraid my wife may smother me in my sleep if I don't get out of her hair. I'm a grain of sand in a well-oiled machine.

I can't complain, she takes great care of me. The situation just adds complication to everything we do. It's frustrating for both of us. Though the kids seem to take great delight in helping out. They're good kids. I have a great SAG crew and I'm thankful for them.

The injury has made me appreciate all three of them even more.

Didn't leave the property yesterday. Didn't really want to venture too far in the heat.

Might give it a go today. Despite the heat a walk around the neighborhood would be good for the soul. I still need to go to the library. I'd take the kids but I think the walk would be too much. Maybe I'll hook up the bike trailer to Boone's bike...

Thursday, July 21

The Aftermath

Nothing is broken. Just a simple shoulder separation. Referred for physical therapy.

The pain is only bad if I try to do something drastic, or if Norm claps me on the shoulder. I caught his hand before it landed right on the AC joint.

I can sleep pretty well on the couch with my back against the couch back. The muscles in the general political region around the AC joint are starting to ache. Still no bruising, so alas, no worthy photos for the blog.

I've been able to eat, type, hoe in the garden , put my contacts in, brush my teeth, etc, etc, all right-handed. Been having to wear shorts with an elastic waistband, no buttons or zippers, and have to step into my hiking boots that always stay loosely tied.

Driving is out. Running is out. Needless to say cycling is out.

It's rough for me. I'm someone not content to sit around and do nothing. While I take full advantage of the downtime and catch up on Star Trek: TOS, Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek: TNG, Fawlty Towers and a bunch of movies in my instant queue on Netflix, I'd much rather be 100% mobile.

I am going to try to go out for a walk later. I've got a book in at the library. It'll be a good excuse to get outside and sweat.

My sister-in-law was in a nasty fender bender this morning. The driver of the car that hit them blamed her child in the car for causing the accident. Odd twist on the shirking of responsibility. Anarchy with Benefits. Drive as fast as I want and blame my child when something bad goes wrong.

After my crash one of my family members mentioned it was a good thing I hadn't had one of the kids with me. My stomach churned. I'd ridden across those tracks with at least one of the kids before. It made me realize I need to take riding and transporting my own children more seriously.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Wednesday, July 20

Crossing the Line

As I rolled out of work yesterday I pulled my cap down a little tighter against the rain. Hadn't been expecting rain, but considering most days I dodge the weather bullet by making it home before the rain starts or leave work after its over, AND the fact that it was warm and there was little threat of hypothermia, I decided to just brave the precipitation.

And as I headed down the US 6 bike path lightning flashed and thunder instantly boomed all around Golden.

I said a quick prayer against getting struck by lightning and then dropped down to Illinoising. I knew to slow down at the bottom of the hill so I wouldn't crash in the mud puddle I flopped around in last month.

As I rolled damply through Golden I got a strong urge to take 32nd Avenue east instead of my normal 10th Ave/Clear Creek Trail route. The trail is wide open and exposed to the sky along hwy 58 and the lightning was getting scary.

But since I'd never taken 32nd I didn't think it prudent to ride it for the first time on Inclement Weather Day. When I reached the traffic light at 13th/32nd there was construction in the right lane of Ford Street beyond. I should have taken that as a clear sign, but I didn't. I continued on Ford to 10th.

Even as I turned east on 10th the traffic was still light, but as I approached the railroad tracks at Coors I glanced over my left shoulder and saw a line of cars coming up behind me. Great! I thought, Perfect timing to crowd me as I cross the tracks.

I'd crossed said tracks numerous times in rain, snow and ice. They angle across the road, but rarely had I taken the space on the road to cross the at a 90 degree angle. And yesterday I couldn't because the overtaking cars were crowding me. The road inconveniently narrows right at the tracks.

I continued on as usual, cranking along my normal commute in the face or an abnormal deluge.

There was one tiny difference in my crossing yesterday and all of my previous crossings on wet/icy/slick tracks...Xtracycle.

Just couldn't float it with the longer wheelbase.

I lost the bike and went down on the pavement hard on my left shoulder. Luckily there was a brief lull in traffic, but someone did honk at me and only one car slowed but then went on when I stiffly picked myself up from the asphalt.

As I dragged the bike from the road and got my chain back on I knew something was jacked in my shoulder. I didn't even realize my left knee was bleeding. Road rash is my new fashion contribution this season.

I wanted to call Mandy to come pick me up. The rain, the blood, the pain...I wanted to give up. But I knew the bike would be an issue. There was no safe place to stash it, I wouldn't be able to get it on the roof of the car...I needed to ride home. But could I?

The bike was upright pointed east and there was no traffic (the irony). I gritted my teeth in determination and against the pain in my shoulder and pushed off.

It was a long ride home, but I made it. The normal jolts and bumps made me fairly certain nothing was broken, but I knew I needed an x-ray. When I got home Mandy drove me to the doctor's office up north through the continuing lightening storm. There they ascertained I have at least a strained acromioclavicular ligament. The x-ray reading will give a clearer picture and I should know something today.

For now I'm in a shoulder sling/immobilizer with little pain until I move much. Did I mention I'm left-handed?

Moral of the story: cross RR tracks at a perfect 90 degree angle and slowing down is always an option.

Tuesday, July 19

Evil Barbie and the Black Lexus of Death

"With great power, comes great responsibility," as said by Stan Lee through his comic book character Spider-Man, defines our iconic image of the super hero. But what happens when you have someone with great power who does not wield it responsibly? You end up with a super villain, like the Green Goblin, or Doctor Octopus, or Evil Barbie in the Black Lexus of Death. Huh? Never heard of the last one? I assure you she exists.

This morning as I plied along Ridge Road (which seems to be a nexus for super villains) I encountered Evil Barbie and her Black Lexus of Death.

There is a four way stop at Miller Street and Ridge Road. As I approached it from the east I heard a car approaching, glanced back and saw I had room so I took the lane within the last 50-75 feet of the stop sign.

As I rolled to a stop at the white line the Black Lexus of Death gunned up beside me completely south of the double yellow line and stopped beside me. Through the dark tint of the windows I saw big blonde hair.

"REALLY?!" I called to her.

We both started to move forward at the same time, then she paused for a nanosecond and finally gunned through the intersection on the wrong side of the road.

Now, at that point I don't really understand why she bothered to come to a complete stop. She'd already broken perhaps a slew of traffic laws by passing on a double yellow, failure to stay in lane, wanton endangerment, reckless stupidity, etc, etc.

The really great part is that the two cars behind her followed her super villainous example and gunned past me on the wrong side of the road through the intersection at a high rate of speed. Evil minions I guess.














The fat recumbent cyclist shows the incorrect position














The skinny recumbent cyclists shows the correct position














Evil Barbie in Black Lexus of Death shows the really jacked up way


I take the lane at stop signs for exactly that purpose. I use my powers for good, to control traffic and keep it safe. But inevitably there are some moto-fascists that believe they are above the law when in the presence of bicycles and will bend logic to absurd angles to justify committing numerous traffic infractions.

I've speculated for some time that many motorists (moto-fascists or moto-fascists-to-be) become blithering idiots when they see a cyclist. They don't know how to act or react. Instead of treating the cyclists as another slow moving vehicle they begin acting as if the cyclist is a dangerous predator or a shifty looking ruffian. Or both. They swerve, they dodge defensively, they gun their engines and brake unexpectedly.

But of course, not as many people use the great power under their right toes with responsibility and give the cyclist plenty of room and only pass when its safe to do so.

And you hear all sorts of reasons when a motorist hits a cyclist: "Well, it was just a cyclist" or "I thought it was a motorcycle" and my favorite "I didn't see them." Ha. Ha! HA! That's rich. Didn't see a person on a bicycle. Y'know, I can't count the number of times I've been driving a car (it does happen occasionally) and have seen 2X4s in the road, or hunks of rock fallen from road cuts, or pedestrians crossing the street in front of me, or animals like dogs and deer in or near the road. All of these things have a smaller visual footprint than an adult on a bicycle. The argument that a motorist didn't see a cyclist is a farce. If they didn't see them its because they weren't looking. Not paying attention.

We all want to be absolved of responsibility when something goes wrong. Heck! We don't want responsibility before anything goes wrong and we darn sure aren't going to accept any afterward. No thank you, I'm all full up.

We want traffic laws to apply to everyone else, but not to ourselves. We want to be able to do whatever we want, while reaping the benefits of a system of traffic and safety laws and ordinances. Anarchy with Benefits.

I'll be the first to admit it. I want to ride/drive however I want and I'm very cognizant of how others behave on the roads. The cries goes up "THREE FEET...JACKASS!" when cars get too close. But I justify through a system of pulleys and levers and trapdoors that I can roll through a stop sign if no cars are around because it costs me much to dump all of my momentum and then have to take off from a dead stop on the bike.

But its ingrained in the American psyche: "Freedom" to smoke cigarettes and kill others with second-hand smoke. "Freedom" to drive a Hummer a mile to the video rental place twice a day because I live in a "Free Country." "Freedom" to harass cyclists on the road because they shouldn't be on the roads anyway, when they pay taxes, blah, blah, blah.

We want something for nothing and we've been told we can have it. We don't want to pay for our luxuries and when the true costs of our royal lifestyles are pointed out we enter denial mode and look to the GOP for guidance. And then there are the dems of course. Spineless cowards.

Rant over. Got more important things to do today.

Barbie, wherever you are, I hope you get a ticket today. Drive fast honey, enjoy it while you can.

Monday, July 18

Monday Propaganda: Anarchy With Benefits

I've said it before and I'm going to say it now and I will continue to say it for a long time: the modern concept of "Freedom" in the US is really Anarchy with Benefits.

Americans get really cranky when there are any hitches in our giddyups, when we can't do as we please. We believe "Freedom" is the freedom to do whatever we want. And again, that is anarchy. And since we still want well maintained roads, cops to show up promptly when our neighbors annoy us, cheap health care when we've broken something...and still to be able to do whatever, whenever we want...well, that's Anarchy with Benefits.

True freedom is the freedom from oppression. And that is truly the purpose of democracy. Democracy was not instituted so the citizens of the state could go about consuming resources at an unsustainable rate, robbing from the poor to pad their own pockets, and exploiting third world countries in the name of capitalism. That's not democracy. That's Anarchy with Benefits.

We should be promoting and abiding in freedom from oppression for all. FOR ALL. But as it is we are oppressing, not only our contemporaries in the Developing World, but also our own future generations with our overconsumption and unsustainable behaviors. We are robbing from the future with no care for how our heirs are going to fare. We are oppressing them from the past by taking their share of the Earth's resources.

Many vehemently oppose socialism. And I agree to a point. Socialism in its extreme form is not a healthy economic model. But neither is capitalism. Capitalism has brought us privatized water. Capitalism has brought us wars for resources. Capitalism keeps the jackboot of the fascist capitalistic countries firmly on the necks of the resource rich Third World nations. But because capitalism is flawed we shouldn't immediately turn to socialism or communism. I think we need to find a new economic model.

Profit should never be attached to life giving resources. And I don't mean food or materials for clothing and shelter. I have no problem with an medium of exchange for those things. But WATER should never be withheld from anyone because they can't pay for it. No one should be allowed to own water, air, or naturally available fuel. These things should be a public trust in perpetuity.

To quote Maude Barlow, a long time water activist, as she addressed the UN and as seen in the movie Blue Gold: World Water Wars: "...to call for a United Nations convention that explicitly states that water is a human right and a public trust that must not be denied to anyone on the basis of inability to pay."

And the UN actually listens...

And when a person puts in a day's work that person should be compensated, either in the product of their own energy or in a medium of exchange, in an amount at least equal to a day's needs. And then of course, that person should not spend more in a day than they can earn in a day.

Simple, simple economics.

Back to freedom...when our "freedoms" rob others of their freedom from oppression then our own perceived benefits become evil. Our own actions are oppressive and we become tyrants.

So how does this tie in to a cycling blog? When I choose the bike over the car I am choosing to shun Anarchy With Benefits and I'm reducing my own economic oppression of my fellow human begins, both those alive today and those that will come after. I am choosing a sustainable and responsible form of transportation. I'm saving the world, the whales and my grandchildren from the consequences of bad decisions. I'm conserving both water and fossil fuels. I'm easing the load on the planet and I'm having fun doing it.

In a semi-related vein: I got an email from DRCOG's RideArrangers letting me know if I were only to sign up for their car/vanpooling program, just to give it a try, that I could possibly win two round trip airline tickets on Southwest to anywhere I want to go.

Huh?!

So if I am concerned with reducing my carbon footprint, saving money on my transportation costs or getting out of the SOV I can have the opportunity to completely and totally negate any positive impacts I may have had and fly on a jet plane!

Incredible...

The bicycle CAN save the world.

Sunday, July 17

Sunday Afternoon Bike Project: Converting Kid Hauler to Cargo Trailer

Since we've gotten the cargo bikes the two-wheeled kid trailer has sat unused. Ironically the weekend we got the Ute a neighbor gave us a second child trailer. So I've had the idea in the back of my mind to convert our older trailer to a utility/cargo/touring trailer.

As we discussed upcoming potential bikepacking adventures I was reminded of the trailer, so this afternoon I dragged it out into the sun and Bean and I stripped it down to its frame and rearranged the nylon components to create a lightweight cargo trailer I can haul behind the Cannonball X.

I know it probably seems silly considering the hauling capacity of the Xtracycle, but what I'm looking at is that if I have the trailer to put some of the bulkier camping items on then there will be plenty of room for Boone to ride on the deck of the X when we tour or bikepack.

We'll put it through its road/trail test this coming weekend. I'm scheming even now. Medicine Bow Trail? Boreas Pass Road? Buffalo Creek? We'll see...





Having the Xtracycle made it feasible to convert the trailer. I'll be able to use it to haul stuff locally that I wouldn't have been able to haul with just the Cannonball. I foresee the newly recrafted cargo trailer getting upgraded as the need arises.

Saturday, July 16

Back to Buffalo Creek

I took the whole family, though only Boone and Lily rode their bikes. We drove to the Buffalo Creek Road trailhead at Buffalo Campground. The road is blocked off and parallels Buffalo Creek all the way down and out to the village of Buffalo Creek.
















Its a nice easy descent for about a mile to the junction with the Baldy Trail. At the trail intersection we discovered an aid station for a triathlon. We dropped the bikes and took the Baldy Trail a short distance on foot to the Gashouse Gulch Trail. Once on Gashouse Gulch we could see where our geocache was hiding.

We found "The Dude Abides" GC14PNE at 39.35083, -105.32488.
















We also saw a few other cyclists. I can't wait to go back and ride and Mandy kept saying: "I just need a mountain bike!"































I love the Buffalo Creek area. The forest fires of years ago have created a surreal, but beautiful landscape. There are large open meadows where there was once thick forests. You can see the odd rock formations in their entirety.

And the trails are just phenomenal. Buffalo Creek Road is...well, an old road. And the other trails are singletrack that winds up gulches and ridges at generally easy grades.

We discussed backpacking and bikepacking in the area. It would be very good for either with the kids. Boone had a really good time riding his bike too. And Lily did good. She's still not riding on her own, but she did good with the Balance Buddy today. It won't be long...

Friday, July 15

Ken Kifer

I have been revisiting Ken Kifer's Bike Pages. The late Ken Kifer amassed a wealth of cycling information on his website before he was tragically struck and killed by a drunk driver.

If I had to pick only one cycling hero and/or inspiration it would have to be Ken. Much of my cycling mindset has developed in the vein of Ken's and as a result of reading through his material. I would not say I am a disciple of Kifer per se, because much of my approach to cycling had been developed long before I discovered the website back in 2007. But much of what he wrote has helped me to refine and confirm my beliefs and tactics related to cycling.

I tried to consume Sheldon Brown's website in the same way, but I just can't seem to do it. I don't agree with a lot of what Brown says and I feel as if he was not as natural a cyclist as Kifer.

Another thing about Ken that I identify strongly with is that he lived mostly in the South, while Brown and others who are prominent in this particular genre of cycling are/were mostly located outside the South. There are factors unique to cycling in the South that people who have never experienced them just cannot understand. "Share the Road" on a Kentucky license plate means a whole lot more than the same phrase on a Colorado plate.


He must be a jogger

But back to Ken...his lifestyle bears some examination. And it's his lifestyle that truly inspires me, not so much his cycling "achievements." Ken lived simply. He shunned motor vehicle dependency and arranged his life in a different manner than the majority of his contemporaries, even other cyclists. In Ken Kifer you see someone who is truly a cyclist, in lifestyle, in deed, in manner and approach to life. He solved his transportation problems with a bike and solved his bike problems with his own abilities, not relying on the easy way out by reverting back to societal norms when it became too onerous to stick with the bike.

His attitude toward cycling was one of simple common sense. Its cheaper to ride a bike, hands down, no matter what your perception is. Driving a car is expensive. There's no reason to question it. Its as clear as the nose on your face.

But while Ken was a cyclist in every way, you get the impression from his written words that he didn't beat everyone around him over the head with his bike. I would imagine as he rode through town on his bike going to and from work, the store, to visit friends and family that other than the fact that he was riding a bicycle and standing out like a sore thumb in Alabama that he was in a strange way unassuming. It's hard to explain what I mean by this, but I just get the gut feeling that while he was somewhat larger than life, the fact that he was riding a bike to and fro was secondary to the journey he was on.

It's notable that Ken lived through the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s and into the aughts as a cyclist. His perspective on American cycling was truly comprehensive and unique. I remember as a small child seeing signs for the Bikecentennial in my hometown. I remember hearing stories of Joe Bowen biking cross country. People rode cool (now vintage) ten speeds. The OPEC embargo made people fear rising fuel costs. And then the eighties hit us full in the face. Reagan told us to spend and thrive. Oil flowed like wine. Cycling lost its flavor. But then it had started to come back and has grown in popularity since the time of Ken's untimely death.

If you have the time, explore Ken's written works. His perspective on life and cycling is inspirational and holds true, it's timeless. And while I don't agree with every single thing he wrote, I do think he conveyed wisdom and experience that many today can learn from.

I got sidetracked as I looked up the links for Ken, Joe Bowen (future post) and Bikecentennial (Adventure Cycling Association). The Bikecentennial had to have been pretty awesome. There are days I'm nostalgic for riding in the Southeast. There are days I would love to be able to spend a few months in Kentucky just riding every day. I know its a pipe dream, but despite the cons of riding there I do miss it sometimes.

I will eventually do a cross country ride, whether it be a future vacation or in my family's post-apocalyptic trek back to Kentucky. See, Colorado was a fine move for us in our pre-apocalyptic world. But once things fall apart we want to be with our families in a place where we can sustain ourselves. Colorado is not that place.

Anyway, check out Ken, Bikecentennial and keep your eyes peeled for a piece about Joe Bowen.

Thursday, July 14

Touring Dreams

I gotta say my Guanella Pass bicycle tour was one of the most, if not THE most, satisfying recreational activity I've ever experienced. To conceive of a plan of such personal magnitude, to put together all of the things I needed, to have built and maintained the bike I used and to have drawn on a lifetime of experience and then have it go off without a hitch...well, that's poetry.

There was very little I would have done differently. And to be honest, the same trip if it had been pushed back a couple of weeks could have been meteorologically disastrous. But it wasn't and I can't wait until my next tour.

Oddly, I passed up the opportunity to do another bike tour the very next weekend so I could do some specific mountaineering. I wanted to visit Father Dyer Peak in the Tenmile Range near Breckenridge. And while a bike tour was completely possible and feasible I just didn't have the time to make the trek over the Divide, bag the peaks and return. Plus we were entering the monsoon season and using the car to go light and fast was the quick and easy way out.

It's hard to describe (or imagine until you've actually experienced it) the feeling of having all of your gear on your bike and traveling from Point A to Point B. My biggest regret is that I didn't do a big multi-day loop instead of my out and back. I ended up with a bit of downtime at camp and time leftover on Sunday as I traveled home. I could have maximized the cycling aspect of the trip and covered many, many more miles. The effort I put into climbing Squaretop Mountain from Guanella Pass could easily have translated into 60 or 80 more road miles.

Yeah, I want something longer. I want to cover hundreds of miles. I want to cross state lines. I want to have to stop and completely resupply at the local grocery in some far off village. Wow, one bike tour and I'm hooked for life!

It's funny how your mindset changes. I'm sure its similar to long distance backpackers or other similar long distance travelers. Your daily objectives change. Your focus as you travel changes. A crash on a recreational ride has different impacts (pun intended) than a crash while far from home loaded down for touring. The need to find a secure and legal place to camp makes you think differently as you ride. You become aware of distances between water and food sources, of the last repository for some necessity in case you have to turn around and go back for it. You feel the topography like a blind person feels braille. Touring is different than recreational day rides or car road trips. They are vastly different animals.

I bagged a 13er while on my bike tour. It was the only mountain ascent above 13,000' on which I did not feel adverse affects to high altitude. I ascended from 5,400' to almost 14,000' at a human pace and my body acclimated completely. The very next weekend I drove to 10,900' and then hiked to nearly 14,000' and the acute affects of altitude slammed into me like a truck. On my daily commutes I feel every extra pound. On the loaded-for-touring Cannonball I felt as if I could fly. My overall speed didn't matter. I was looking at miles, not miles per hour.

Based on my internet observations I know its possible to tour with a family. I may not have the vacation time to do it soon, but for next summer I think I'll be scheming something big. BIG.

Tuesday, July 12

Tuesday Propaganda: Peak Oil Revisited

For those of you that have missed my conspiracy theory doom and gloom, this post is just for you. I've shied away from peak oil for a bit. You can't immerse yourself too deeply for too long without suffering adverse effects. I took a hiatus from wrestling philosophically with the imminent post-carbon apocalypse.

And then silly me...I was drawn in to an article yesterday and it brought me screeching to a halt at the feet of the statue of prophecy. As I was reading the article the TV was blatting on about the debt ceiling standoff. These jokers in congress need a reality check upside the head. I'm just sayin'...

The republicans don't really have a problem with government spending. They have a problem with democrat spending. And the democrats need to plug the bleeding holes in their hearts and start passing out the ramen noodles. Time to tighten our belts folks!

I have evidence that oil is in decline. I have it in my hand right now. It's a twice repaired pair of plastic sunglasses. A few weeks ago I had a pair of sunglasses that I had been wearing since at least back in the fall. The rubberized ear pieces had slipped off the thinner and harder arms but I kept wearing them. When my lovely wife (who returns home with my master race children tonight!) asked if I needed her to pick up anything for our trip to Kentucky about a month and a half ago I asked her to pick me up a new pair of sunglasses.

Now, I'm satisfied with cheap sunglasses. Always have been. Why spend a lot of money on something I'm going to trash anyway, right? But as hard as I am on sunglasses (amongst other things) I can usually get six months out of a pair at the very least.

So Mandy got me a new pair and I wore them on our week long trip. They lasted about three weeks total before the plastic frames started to splinter and crumble. They didn't break because I sat on them or dropped them. The lenses weren't scratched so bad I couldn't see through them (which is when I usually replace sunglasses) and otherwise they looked pristine.

The day I was buying supplies for my Guanella tour I picked up a replacement pair for my three week old replacements. I rationalized that I would take extra care and choose a sturdy looking pair that would hold up longer. I knew I could have super-glued the first replacement pair, but that they'd probably just break at another point.

I bough them on Thursday. On Sunday as I was riding home I went to put the second replacement pair on as I passed out of the shadows of the deep canyon around Georgetown into the sun along Alvarado Road. The frame broke.

That afternoon I went back to the store to exchange them. I replaced the second replacement pair with a seemingly sturdier pair that also featured arms that bent outward. To me this seemed to be just what I needed, to reduce the pressure on the frame as the sunglasses are put on and taken off. I had put them on less than a dozen times when that frame broke.

I've worn glasses for 30 years. I've never had so much trouble with the quality of the plastic frames as I have in the past month with FOUR DIFFERENT PAIR of sunglasses.

I have no chemical evidence, but it seems to me that the quality of plastic in the various models of sunglasses I've bought has seriously declined. The price hasn't gone up but the quality has tanked for sure.

It seems like such a little thing, but I just can't get past the tingling of my spider sense that the crumbling of the sunglasses is an omen, a sign of things to come. First your sunglasses, then your world.

As I rode my bike in to work this morning I felt the weight of Peak Oil again. I pondered the effects of excessive fuel costs and drastic shortages of cheap and easy to get to fossil fuels. The most basic issue will be a lack of clean and accessible water as water treatment plants struggle to stay online. Electricity, utilities, food supplies, medical care, civil services, stability and security...all those things will become threatened as fuel costs rise, unemployment continues to rise and as political turmoil brings about never before seen changes in our society. I can smell the changes coming like rain that is getting ready to fall. The air is charged with the weight of precipitous change.

I get so tired of hearing the pundits and plebes go on about "returning to growth" as if the only indicator of a healthy economy is growth. We don't need growth. We need sustainable activity. Organisms typically reach a mature (sustainable) size and then maintain equilibrium until they begin to age and decay. At best as an economic organism we should be shooting for equilibrium, not continued growth. Growth without limits is cancer.

My entire lief I've been a fan of post-apocalyptic science fiction. Much of the genre in the 1980s focused on nuclear catastrophe and Cold War annihilation. When I read about the accounts of life in Japan after Fukushima I can't help but thinking we're essentially living in one of those '80s nuclear nightmare situations. Blade Runner not so far fetched?

I am beginning to believe in climate change, but I am still very skeptical that it is human induced. Climate cycles. That is a known fact. The Earth has gone through cooling and warming trends since the beginning of time. How arrogant are we to claim to have influence over the cycles of the tides and the rains? I've said it before, I'm a climate change agnostic. I'll believe it when I see it for myself. In my near 40 years of existence I've seen changes in the weather patterns in the places where I've lived. It's obvious that winter doesn't mean the same thing it used to along the 38th parallel in North America.

Resilience does not come in an instant. I think we've waited to long to grab the brake. This runaway train is headed for the collapsed bridge. About all we can do now is brace for impact and be prepared for whatever happens in the aftermath.

All because of a pair of cheap sunglasses...

Sunday, July 10

Buffalo Creek

In defiance of the forecasted thunderstorms this afternoon I subjected the OBS to the indignity of being hauled on the rooftop rack of Forester Gump to Pine.

The climb up the Buck Gulch Trail up out of the river valley kicked my butt. I walked a couple of times. Gasp!



I was racing the weather the whole day. Storms rumbled to the north of me and the south of me. I never got rained on and the lightning kept a respectful distance at least.

The weather must have scared off the masses. I had the Buck Gulch Trail, Eos Mill Road, Miller Gulch Trail and the Strawberry Jack Trail all to myself. The only other people I saw were some guys shooting guns along Enos Mill Road. Oh! And the lone MTBer that screamed past me descending Miller Gulch Road. I was flying myself, scaring myself, and I heard "ON YOUR LEFT!" in my left ear. I squeezed over barely enough as another cyclist blew my doors off. I slowed down a little after that.

I rode out Miller Gulch Trail, stashed the bike and hiked over to Baldy Peak. I scrambled to the summit, tagged and bagged it and got the heck off the exposed granite dome.



I retraced my route back to the Strawberry Jack Trail and raced the weather back to Pine Valley Open Space park where Gump waited.

The descent down Strawberry Jack was a blast! I can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, July 5

Tuesday Propaganda: It's About Time!

The big story in transportation today is Obama's new vehicle mileage and emissions standards which will "have a profound effect on the cars Americans drive and the health of the auto industry over the next decade and beyond."

As I was shutting off the morning news on my way out the door this morning I cut off the reporter as she explained that the auto industry would need a handout to be able to afford to make the changeover. Strike that. They are basically demanding more subsidies: "They [automakers] also are seeking assurances that the government will help build the charging stations needed for electric and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, which will help to meet the new standard."

So we've been subsidizing the for-profit big business auto companies for decades while they've been selling us bigger and bigger gas guzzlers which have basically gotten us into the energy crisis we're facing today. And yet the American taxpayer is going to have to foot the bill to retool? I think not!

Let's put this into perspective...do we need "Detroit" to roll out even one more automobile as of this minute?

Think about it. NEED.

Absolutely not. We could do a blanket boycott on all new cars. We could. We won't. Because part of "freedom" is the "freedom" to buy a new car that we can't afford just because the old one's finish is becoming oxidized and the interior doesn't smell new anymore.

So are we "free" if we allow the Big Three to demand we subsidize their mandated changeover to more fuel efficient cars?

Monday, July 4

What I Did on My Summer Vacation...

My Cup Runneth Over

The SUV slowed beside me. I glanced over without easing off the pedals. A twentysomething guy with a fleece hat and a beard was looking back at me from the passenger side of the car.
"Do you know where the Bierstadt trailhead is?" he asked.

That settled it. I was not going up Bierstadt. I would attempt Squaretop Mountain to the west of Guanella Pass as I had originally planned.

Squaretop had been the goal all along, but I did some math in my head (EEK!) as I pedaled along and it breaks down like this:

Squaretop Mountain is 13,794' with a 6.5 mile round trip.

Mount Bierstadt is 14,060' with a 4.5 mile round trip.

Bierstadt is only 266 feet higher than Squaretop with an approach that is a mile shorter. Bierstadt and Squaretop pretty much square off evenly. So then do I pick a 13er...or a 14er?

As I climbed up from my "Godsend" basecamp I asked myself Do you want to make it count? 14er or 13er? I couldn't decide, so I decided I would decide when I reached the pass and could take a look at both mountains up close.

When I stopped at the base of the last big climb up to the pass to snack and rest a bit the first twentysomething stopped to ask how to find the Bierstadt trailhead.

My initial thought was If you can't find the trailhead on your own then you have no business being on the mountain.

That takes us back to a question I asked myself the day before as I climbed Floyd Hill on US 40 as Fourth of July holiday traffic crawled up I-70. What business does a flatlander like me have biking into the mountains?

By the time the second group of twentysomethings solicited me for trailhead beta I knew two things: 1) I would NOT be attempting Bierstadt on the 2nd of July, 2011 and 2) I had EARNED every foot gained, every mile pedaled. If I had no right to be there, the no one did.



"You're almost there!" I told the young man. We were nearly at treeline and the top of the pass (and the trailhead) was not much further. I was verbalizing to the young man the mantra I had been repeating in my head since the I talked to the last twentysomething at the bottom of the last climb.

Squaretop ended up being the better choice. I enjoyed solitude on the summit with a front row seat of Grays and Torreys. But the decision between which peak I would bag was really insignificant considering how I got to the pass.



My master plan in simple terms was this: bike from home to Guanella Pass and then see if I can bag a summit from there. Mandy and the kids are in New York for a week and by taking a half day off from work on Friday with the Fourth holiday I had a solid three and a half days to realize my ambitious plan.

To break it down a little bit I planned to leave work midday and bike up to Idaho Springs. I knew I could camp on Barbour Fork south of town on Federal land. I hoped I'd find an adequate campsite more in line with my route. Then on Saturday I planned on biking the rest of the way to Guanella Pass where I could camp above treeline. I'd either bag a peak after getting to the pass on Saturday or on Sunday morning. I could then if I had time bag a second peak from the pass the next day or head home depending on how I felt.

Realize when I make ambitious plans like this I build in many alternate plans so I can still feel successful even if I don't achieve my ultimate goal(s).

When I left work with the Cannonball loaded for touring I was giddy. I was ecstatic. And before I had even left sight of the building I ran across a couple biking cross country. They had started in Seattle and were stopping in Golden for the night. I saw it as a good omen, a sign. Confidence spilled out of me and overwhelmed me. I was certain, with God's help, I would be able to succeed in my adventure.



I Lift Up My Eyes to the Hills

I'd prayed for good weather, strong legs and success in my ambitions. In fact, I kept praying, continuously as I traveled. What had seemed to me was to be a solo adventure had become one where I was dependent on my faith in God's protection to get me through every trial. I have faith. I know God has watched over me my whole life. How do I know this? There have been so many times in my life that I should have failed, or have been injured or killed, or lost, or sick. And all of those times I have been protected beyond just mere chance, beyond something as random and purposeless as fate.

The climbs went down easy. Idaho Springs came too soon and I had to amend my plan. I would push on to Georgetown. In doing so I knew I was committing myself to going above Georgetown to find a campsite. I wasn't sure of any camping possibilities between Barbour Fork and Guanella Pass Road. This is significant because I never do anything without thoroughly researching everything. Being uncertain about where I was going to sleep, being so committed to the journey was a new experience for me.



Too many disembodied bikes attached to SUV roofs and trunks sped past as I paralleled I-70 for much of my journey. I saw very few bikes on the road until I was headed home on Sunday. I don't think I saw a single bike on Guanella Pass Road. Of course due to the construction portions of GPR are rough dirt and rock and portions are brand spanking new pavement that is as smooth as a baby's bottom.

I enjoyed riding with a touring load. By the time I returned home I was beginning to get my system down. I was more comfortable leaving the bike when I went inside stores. I watched a couple of guys outside the Mountain Buzz Cafe & Pizzeria in Georgetown admire the Cannonball (loaded for touring) and I didn't get too anxious.

Speaking of anxious...I am always anxious sleeping in a tent. I don't do it well. I can never get comfortable and I can imagine too many things happening like bears ripping into the tent or the Blair Witch Project becoming reality wherever I happen to be camping. Before Friday night I had only camped alone one time in my life. Friday night I slept restlessly. In fact, I stayed awake reading with the Kindle app on my iPhone until 11:30pm. And then I woke at 4:30am as the sky started to lighten.



Saturday night I had trouble falling asleep despite my herculean effort ascending Squaretop. Finally, around 10:00pm I fell asleep and was dead to the world until 5:30am. I knew I had been out cold because I had not moved for seven and a half hours. As I dragged myself out into the early morning light I marveled that I was not stiff or sore. Providence had seen me through my exertions. One component of my continuous prayer had been answered. In the end every component of every prayer I had prayed had been answered.

As I approached the summit of Squaretop
after so many miles, so many thousands of feet gained, so much energy expended I feared I would become emotional and begin sobbing. The night before once I had gotten camp set up I found to my delight, and again, seemingly through Providence, that I had strong cell service. As I left Mandy a voice message my voice broke and I had to punctuate the call before I started crying like a baby. My water for tea heated as I fought sobs, unsure why my emotions were spilling out so violently. I'd made it to a safe and comfortable camp with connection to the outside world. I was not cutoff from the world, alone to face the night.



I realize when I finally stood at the summit cairn of Squaretop Mountain at 13,794' I was only halfway there. And I'm always cognizant that descending, returning, coming back from epic adventure is the time when you are most likely to get hurt. I kept that in mind as I hiked down from Squaretop, as I screamed down the new pavement from Guanella Pass on an unloaded Cannonball and then on Sunday morning as I headed home. I kept my focus on the road ahead. I avoided potholes and rocks and loose sand and gravel that could have led to disaster.

I should have been exhausted. I should have been sore and stiff. I should have felt like death warmed over. But I wasn't. Even as I pedaled home and faced down the west side of Floyd Hill too soon after leaving Idaho Springs I still felt strong. I still felt like going on. I have no other explanation...




Well, I'm Back

On Saturday I returned to my basecamp at 2:55pm. My day had been

E

P

I

C


If I had not biked 48 miles the day before just to reach camp...even then, my day would have been

E

P

I

C

by most people's standards.

I was awake at 4:30am, having not slept well in the tent alone. I was on the road with only a day pack with food and sundries and my MSR water filter with a couple of water bottles at 5:30am. I biked up Guanella Pass Road from my camp at 9,800' toward the pass at 11,669' 5.8 miles away.



Between waking at 4:30am and returning to camp at 2:55pm I had gained and lost 4,000' and covered about 19 miles.

EEEEE

PPPPP

IIIII

CCCCC


Did I consider packing up my stuff and starting down toward home on Saturday night? You bet I did! I had six solid hours of daylight left and the route home was mostly downhill. 4,400' of elevation loss to be exact...

And I would have packed it all up and struck out for home, knowing I'd be wrecking my body for the remainder of the week except for two things...Floyd Hill and the climb up to El Rancho from the bottom of Floyd Hill on the east side.

The decision to stay in camp and head home early Sunday morning ended up being the reason I could still walk when I got off the Cannonball after rolling into the Bikeport.

It was a long afternoon, enduring the mosquitoes until it was cool enough to get in the tent. Then I read some more on my phone and dozed a bit as the roar of engines traced Leavenworth Road through the space beyond my camp. Then gunshots as some redneck celebrated the Fourth early. Then more engines.

I slept well. I tossed and turned until about 10:00pm and then did not move again until 5:30am. I woke and began packing up. I was headed home and I felt rested and energetic.

Floyd Hill loomed in my path, but I knew before the heinous climb I would descend Alvarado and Stanley Roads and I looked forward to that. I knew before Floyd Hill I'd stop for a decent breakfast in Georgetown or Idaho Springs. I knew before Floyd Hill I'd be loosened up and my mind ready to confront the obstacle.

Sitting in the Mountain Buzz Cafe & Pizzeria in Georgetown I was thankful the rough descent down Guanella Pass Road was behind me. The first few miles above town and below my campsite were dirt and rock as crews continue a multi-year project to improve the road. I had to reign in the runaway-freight-train that wold be if I let the Cannonball (loaded for touring) fly as it wanted to.

Georgetown was quiet. There was no traffic as I left the picturesque town behind and cruised past the lake.

The roads between Georgetown and Idaho Springs are amazing. Both Alvarado and Stanley Roads have considerable stretches with wide striped shoulders and little traffic. The pavement is as smooth as a bicycle tourist could pray for and there are only a couple of small rolling hills as you descend making for a smooth, casual ride along Clear Creek.





The roads were so nice and I was making such good time Floyd Hill was approaching must faster than I wanted it to.

I stopped in Idaho Springs at the Safeway to get some fuel and water for the final push. I sat in the shade and ratcheted down for Floyd Hill. I was still making fantastic time as I cruised through Idaho Springs. I was hoping to make the plains by noon.

Leaving town on the Scott Lancaster Memorial Trail I wondered when I'd be back. I wondered what situation would arise that would give me the opportunity to make this amazing ride again.



And before I knew it I was staring up a vertical wall. Floyd Hill.

I geared all the way down, sucked down some water and began the long, slow crawl up to the apex of my fears.

At 9:50am I stood on top of Floyd Hill looking down on the traffic on I-70 as it slowed and then washed over the sides like rain off a steep roof. I knew my trials were basically over. I had prayed for strength and was granted it. I'd made it over the last big obstacle and was still feeling strong. I knew I could make the last climb and still have energy to spare. The rest was just a formality.



Down the east side of Floyd Hill, back up to El Rancho, along the shoulder of I-70, cross the bridge at Genesee and fly down Mount Vernon Canyon, letting caution whip away in the wind.

11 o'clock I was in Golden.

And then I was back on my normal commute. The adventure was over. The novelty faded instantly. I stopped pedaling down the hills and let the bike coast as I eased into an upright position. The euphoria remained, but the ambition to push strongly had left me.



11:40am Sunday, July 3, 2011...home.

I'd biked just over 106 miles. I'd hiked 6.5 miles. In total I had gained 8,400' under my own power. Well, with some help I might add. I used no car. I depended on no other human being. I carried all of my tools for adventure either on my bike or on my back. I set out with uncertain goals and succeeded completely. My prayers had been answered favorably and I was thankful.

I have one more weekend before my family returns. Can I top this one? Do I want to?

STATS

July 1:
Morning commute 9.3 mi. 1 hr
11:36am Left the Taj 80F
12:36pm LO Mtn exit 70F
2:13pm Top of Floyd Hill, 80F
3:00pm Idaho Springs 75F
4:55pm Georgetown 80F
5:10pm headed out of G'town
5:30pm Reached the bottom of Guanella Pass Rd
5:45pm started up Guanella Pass Rd
7:30pm found "Godsend" camp

48 miles, 4,400' 8 hrs

July 2:
5:30am left camp 50F
7:50am Guanella Pass 65F, 70F

5.8 miles, 1,870' 2 hrs 20 min

11:35am Summit of Squaretop Mountain 45F

1:55pm return to Guanella Pass 85F

6.5 miles RT, 2,125' 6 hrs

2:55 return to camp (5.8 miles, 1 hr)

July 3:

6:45am left camp 40F
7:10am Georgetown
7:45am back on the road
8:30am Idaho Springs 60F
15 min in Safeway
9:50am top of Floyd Hill 80F
10:30am El Rancho
11:00am Golden 85F
11:40 home

END OF TRIP
Me: 184 lbs
Bike and gear: 86 lbs

Friday, July 1

To the Mountains

First off, quick tally of June's mileage: 527.7 which puts June second behind this past April at 528.02. So close!

I may have bitten off more than I can chew, Dear Readers, as I strike out west toward Guanella Pass in just a few minutes. I packed the bike up and rode in to work this morning. The Cannonball awaits me in the hallway. I hope I do not let my steed down, as the engine that will propel it to glory in the foothills and mountains west of the plains.

I'm not conditioned for this. I will suffer.

But I have time and I can go slow. My goal for today is to reach Idaho Springs before the thunderstorms that are predicted for later in the day arrive. I will do my best.

Look for a trip report Tuesday and until then: enjoy your Fourth of July weekend!