Monday, December 31

Riding in the New Year

An ambitious (epic) plan was whittled down. In my mind it started out grand and blog-worthy. This morning it seems tame and domesticated. When I say that, I do not mean to whine about my marital status. I'm just pointing out that I have ratcheted my initial scheme back to something that fits the situation.

I planned on meeting Dave in Mount Sterling this morning with my bike for another jaunt to Cave Run. At first the Grand Scheme was to ride from Stanton to Mount Sterling, a mere 17+ miles, but the nature of the roads at the time I would have been riding, combined with the realization that I'd have to venture onto busy, narrow, and curvy roads before sunrise to make it in time, had me amend the plan.

"Would you mind driving me over to Jeffersonville in the morning?" I sweetly asked my lovely wife last night as she sat knitting on the bed. She was agreeable, so the scheme went from "Grand" to "Great." I would ride from Jeffersonville to Mount Sterling, only 8 miles and on a wide road with ample shoulders, and meet Dave. I'd get there just after sun-up and I'd also take my commuting lights.

But then Mandy offered to take me on into Mount Sterling, she'd decided if she was giong as far as Jeffersonville she may as well go on into town to do some needed shopping.

Now, at that point, I could have stuck with my initial amended plan. If I didn't I'd lose the potential 8 miles of riding (toward a SO CLOSE 5,400), but it just seemed to make sense to save the miles for the trail.

Anyway, on to the ride. Met Dave in Mount Sterling and we rolled into the visitor center parking lot around 11am. It was overcast and a little cold. We couldn't see much snow down low, but up on the ridges it was obvious there was some white stuff left over from the other day.

We got geared up and headed across the road where we slipped up a slick start onto wet, but surprisingly rideable leaves.

The initial climb is about a mile long, with a reprieve in the middle, with a steep, narrow crux near the top, and then a short, steep, and rocky crux right at the end of the long climb.

We wallered up and gained the upper ridge. On the first pass out the 3.1 mile section from the paved road to the Sheltowee/Big Limestone split I was somewhat skittish in the frozen mud, wet leaves and snow.

At hte turnaround point we paused for a few minutes, posed some pics for posterity and then headed back. On the return trip I finally started to have my bike legs under me, and I was able to crank up the speed and finally start to relax.

We bombed back, taking an out and back detour on the Lakeview Trail to the top of a big descent, and then dropped back to the car to get some food and to warm our piggies.

At 2pm we headed back up, cleaning more of the climbs and just tearing out the ridge and back for a grand total of 14.5 miles.

 

Today is the last day of the year. We ran out of time, leaving me with 5,397 miles for 2012. I know...three measly miles. I'm really okay with that. I know I'm not 100% accurate with my tracking, so I may actually be more or less than that realistically. I'm gonna call it 5,400. For all intents and purposes...

That leaves me 200 miles for December and a final monthly average of 450 miles (rounded).

Dave and I had a good day. It was interesting mountain biking in the snow. My kingdom for a fatbike...

It was interesting to return to my roots...and to ride over some of them.

Looking forward to riding the Ridge in optimal conditions. It was lots of fun in poor conditions. Can't imagine what kind of fun it will be when it dries out.






Thursday, December 27

Don't Forget the Bike!

I should know better by now. When in doubt...TAKE THE BIKE!

Dave L and I had the following text exchange recently:

Me: Wish this rain would stop so I could ride my MTB

Dave: Yeah planning on going up to the ridge Thursday if it is really wet I'll go hike it; but generally it is always rideable, a little muddy for the first 1/4 mile at the most. Want to go?

Me: If its too muddy to ride then hiking would be cool.

Dave: It is totally rideable in the wet but it does make certain sections more tech.

We eventually decided to just hike it. I met Dave in Mount Sterling and he drove the rest of the way to Morehead. We parked at the visitor center near the dam and hiked northerly on the Sheltowee. The section we hiked is the trail he calls "The Ridge." While I'm familiar with the area, I had never actually hiked that section of the Sheltowee, and due to the efforts of Dave and some other local MTBers the ridge section between Amburgey Rocks and the visitor center is in fine condition. In fact, despite the drenching rains and snows of late, it was totally rideable today. The lower temps hardened everything that wasn't gravel solid.


Totally. Rideable. We opted to hike and leave the bikes at home.

I've been jonesing to MTB since we got back into the state; today we had the perfect opportunity and blew it.

It was the kind of day I used to live for when I climbed a lot. It was overcast, cold, but not freezing, and the sky was dreaming of snow. Cranking along on a mountain bike would have fueled my furnace all day long. Man...

Wednesday, December 26

Out of the Boxing Day

Woke up to more rain. Blah. But this is how I remember Kentucky winters: 40-ish and rain. That spells M-U-D-D.

I needed to go by the credit union and the insurance office. Despite the light rain at 9:30 it only took me a minute or so to decide I would ride. I was going to swap out pedals and accoutrements from Minus to the Allez but then time became a factor, and the rain picked up a bit so I deemed Minus to be my icky weather bike here.

It only took  me a few minutes to run my errands. My family lives out of town, but from where we're staying over the hill to town is only a couple of miles, and then the town itself--Stanton--is hardly a mile across. Within fifteen minutes I had stopped at both places and was pulling into my in-laws bikeport.

Mandy and her mom headed out "to the city" for the day with Bean and Boone sat at his grandparents' kitchen table playing with his Christmas Legos. Tom is remodeling his room and I offered to help but he claimed he was fine enjoying his destruction solo. At the time there was a little blue poking through the gray skies.

By the time I had stowed some food in my jersey pocket and was ready to head out the blue was long gone and the gray was gushing. I hem-hawed around for a little bit, and after a peek at the doppler concluded that it was go and get wet or not ride at all. There was no benefit in attempting to wait out the rain. 

Tom suggested a ride that he often does when it rains and I decided it was my best bet, backroads out of town and then some easy riding with little threat of traffic in the rain.

After cutting through town I was skimming through the rain out toward the river and getting up to a respectable ramming speed. It was then I decided I'd do an out and back sprint over Tharpe Ridge Road.



I actually managed to get my heartrate up and felt pretty good standing up on my pedals to climb the short steep climbs on the wooded lane.

After a meander past the reservoir I turned and blasted back toward town, rocketing across the flat floodplain with a backdrop of misty hills and heavy skies.

I was back to the in-laws in 40 minutes after a short 10-ish mile ride in the rain and felt pretty good.

My goal...my number chasing compulsion...is to tick over 5,500 miles by the end of the year. It might be awhile before I can crack such a high annual number again. Why not go for it while I'm so close? Right now I'm just shy of 5,400 miles with five days to go. Of course the weather is trying to thwart me, but I'll do it if I have to ride in two feet of snow.

Monday, December 24

Merry Christmas!

The last few weeks have been chaotic for us. We've landed in Kentucky okay. We're in our temporary quarters for now. We're anxious to be settled and back into a routine.

Mandy and I managed a nice 17.4 mile ride with her dad around the county yesterday. The temperature was in the high 40s and it was at least partly sunny. It was actually a good day for a bike ride.

Tomorrow is the big day. The kids are excited. Krampus lurks though. Will he carry off my youngest nephew? We'll see in the morning.

I don't know if we'll have a white Christmas. I'm not holding my breath. It will definitely be a Wet Christmas. I'm hoping it dries out soon so I can get the One dirty.

Well, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! The Pavement's Edge family is happy to be close to family and with our feet on the stepping stones of a new adventure.

Thursday, December 20

An Aside: Assaulting Conventional Thinking

The 1,200 mile part of the 1,200 mile move is over. We're not permanently settled, but we're across the chasm and on the other side. We're Coloradans no longer. We're back to being Kentuckians.

Of course it's been raining and windy today. I had considered an early morning ride. We woke to wind and rain though.

For those of you in the arid West "rain" is when water falls from the sky in non-snow form. Kentuckians know rain as that stuff that never seems to go away in winter and which generates large quantities of mud.

Of course bicycling schemes have been roiling around in my head. Of course they have.

What I'd like to chime in on is the school shooting in Newport, Connecticut. I know this is supposed to be a cycling/transportation blog, but its my primary writing outlet these days so I guess I will use it as such.

There's been lots of talk in the media on pro- and anti-gun control. I can't help but have an opinion, despite my staunch political independence.

On one hand I believe because the 2ndAmendment grants us the right to bear arms and implies that we should have the power to defend ourselves against threats both domestic, foreign and local, and to protect our persons against harm. Because of this implication I have to disagree with people who protest the right of an American citizen to possess assault weapons. If a potentially oppressive government can possess assault weapons then its citizens need to have the ability to dissuade the government from using such weapons on said citizens. Single shot hunting rifles are no match for fully automatic modern rifles.

On the other hand, I'm not comfortable with the idea of every citizen packing heat in public all the time. And here's where I'll tie this all into a transportation context: too many people are not responsible or sensible enough to be trusted with firearms. Too many people make too many bad decisions. Look at how the average person drives a car, which is potentially a massive deadly weapon. Few of us regard driving a motor vehicle with the seriousness it deserves.

A few months ago when the video circled of the elderly gentleman repelling the thieves in a crowded establishment all I could think was that until he started shooting there were no bullets flying around in the crowded room. He escalated a tense situation into a potentially deadly one. Thankfully the thieves didn't shoot back into the crowded room. Thankfully the old coot didn't hit anyone himself. I didn't think he was a hero for doing what he did. My life or health isn't worth saving some money or stuff.

Mass shootings. That's a different situation. Take the Aurora theater shooting. In a darkened theater I just don't see how it would be beneficial for multiple people to be shooting into the crowded darkness. And once law enforcement shows up how do they know who is the good guys and who are bad? If you were shooting at a gunman and a cop ran in, who would he shoot? With all the training law enforcement personnel go through would you still be confident if you were firing on the bad guys that a cop wouldn't take you out just to be safe?

Should we ban assault rifles? No. Citizens must be equally armed against the government. Should the average citizen own an arsenal of assault weapons? No. But they should have the right to do so.

Remember, guns don't kill people, people do. Instead of focusing on the guns, of which there are far too many to dispose of at this point, we need to focus on the human problem, the societal sickness that is fostering these mass shootings. Mental health, social issues, economic issues...that is where the focus needs to be.

9/11 was a symptom of greater dysfunction. These shootings are also a symptom, and not the sickness itself. There are underlying issues which cannot be mitigated by simply banning guns. Guns are not the problem.

I guess I should offer a solution since I'm so keen to point out the problems, huh? Well, I don't really have solutions. Not my field of expertise. But what I would suggest is that we somehow need to abolish the party politics that have gridlocked our national discourses. We need to eradicate the corporate influences in the media and in the government on all levels. Until we do those things we will never begin to solve our social and cultural problems and begin to heal ourselves from the sickness that's killing us. Killing the corporate cancer should be paramount.

Hopefully I can get back into the swing of things soon. I don't want this blog to die out. I've just been too overwhelmed of late to focus on writing. I think maybe it's slowly coming back to me.

Monday, December 10

Going (Away) Green

A lot of people have jokingly asked me if we're using our bikes to move. Haha. So funny.

Awhile back, Mandy and I talked about dropping out and becoming hippie farmers. No, really. And when we discussed it Mandy suggested that we ship everything off east and then bike cross country when the time came.

So now we are actually looking at a big eastern move. In December. So we never considered the grand scheme to bike cross country. Over the holidays, in the bitter cold, across the Midwest...just didn't make sense.

Hey, this ain't no cross-town move.

However, I will be scrounging boxes on the Xtracycle this week. So some components of the move are going to be green. Some are not.


Friday, December 7

The Last of the Ramming Speed Fridays: End of an Era

At the Taj

I landed in Colorado on January 30, 2008. It was my 34th birthday. I was all alone. It started out as a bitterly cold day. When I was close enough to Denver that I should have seen mountains huge clouds blocked the sky to he west. Snow began flying somewhere west of Limon. By the time I reached rush hour traffic on I-70 in Wheat Ridge I was driving in a whiteout.

The next day was cold but clear. I drove on into Golden in my jam packed car looking to find a more permanent place to stay.

I was in a strange place, all alone, facing an unknown new adventure, and having left my family behind in tears and sadness. My emotions ran the gamut that day.

I'm wired to love seeing and exploring new places, but my heart wasn't in it. The harsh-bright sun couldn't warm my soul that day. I was overwhelmed more than I had ever felt in my life.

Almost five years have passed. On one hand it seems as if it's been decades. I'm not the same person. So much has happened since that day. I'm older. My perspective has broadened. The world has shrunk. My mental map has expanded.

I moved to Colorado for a job. Jefferson County Planning & Zoning offered me an entry level position and I accepted. I resisted the urge to do happy dances because I was going to be moving to Colorado where I would be near the mountains I'd always wanted to be near. Colorado was the cliche I'd always tried to avoid in my outdoor pursuits. Wyoming had been my dream. But I'd settle for Colorado in a pinch.

Admittedly, I was motivated by the cliche. How cool--to live in Colorado?

My first day in Golden I saw the building where I would be working. The locals call it The Taj. It's proper name is the Jefferson County Courts & Administration Building. It's the Jefferson County courthouse.

It's an imposing structure. I guess if I were a more conventionally wired person I would have been giddy to have been working in such a massive building, all clean lines in stone, with its signature glass dome. Instead, I think I was intimidated. What will would have conceived such a structure and placed it overlooking Golden where it dominated a landscape characterized by monolithic geologic features?

It represented money. A lot of money. Once I learned its history my intimidation was confirmed. Against the will of the citizenry the commissioners of yore that had conceived of this edifice pushed on through controversy and resistance to have it built.

At first I felt like a little fish in a big pond. I was surrounded by a world bigger and grander than anything I had previously experienced. I felt like an interloper, a con. I couldn't fit. Could I?

In time I grew roughly into my place. I never felt like I was in the right climatic zone for my roots to thrive, but I did my best as a stunted individual.

The past year things fell apart. The medium I found myself anchored in was not conducive for growth. I'd gone beyond stagnation. I'd exceeded my shelf life.

My work performance became deplorable. My attitude was rank. I moved dully through the world in quiet desperation. One way or the other my time at Jeffco was limited. Either I'd go beyond burnout and swing into violent disgruntledness, or I'd find any old job to repot myself in.

Resumes were resulting in silence. Interviews were non-existent. Relevant positions were scarce. I couldn't help but feel hopeless in the situation I found myself in. I'd burned up vacation and sick time in an effort to insulate myself from the stress. I'd skirted the edge of acceptable behavior until I had no more strikes left. I was almost out for good.

Then the blinding ray of hope struck me, and it seemed as if the very hand of Providence led me out of my dark valley and pointed my toward the green pastures beside the still waters.

Hope came back into my life. The weight fell heavily from my shoulders. Of course the past couple of weeks we've been plodding on up out of that valley. The air has been fresher, the skies bluer, but the climb out is steep and difficult. The end is in sight.

In just a short while I'll leave this grand building for good. I'll no longer be employed by Jefferson County. I'll be free from the pollution and climate that have stunted my professional growth here.

Do I say goodbye...or good riddance?

I'm not apt to look back on any epoch of my life in regret. I can always find the benefit from any experience. I've learned a lot about the world and myself in this place. I've stumbled on through this dark valley in my soul looking for my place, certain I'd never find it in darkness. I've learned to bear my trials in silence and with patience. I've learned to pray harder, cast my cares fully on God, and I've learned humility in a way I'd not expected.

I am a better person. I'll carry the past five years with me the rest of my life. And if I have learned from them, and can be a better person for my time here, then those five years won't be baggage. They'll be light as the ether, bearing me along my Path. If I don't learn, and store them in bitterness, then they'll weigh heavily on my shoulders, bearing me down, tiring my body, and slowing my progress.

Time to cast off the bitterness and move on.

Back Home

I had wanted to break 22mph today. It didn't happen. I had a head wind and a belly full of pizza from my send- off lunch. Plus, I'm not in shape like I was back in October.

I did pull off a bona-fide Ramming Speed Friday though, clocking in right at 20mph.

Solid.



Thursday, December 6

Finals

It's that time of year. College students everywhere are preparing for finals and weighing whether or not its even worth it to go back for the spring semester. On the School of Mines campus some are even playing Christmas lemmings and darting in front of fast moving Cannonballs.

Yeah, I did my final ride through Mines campus this afternoon when I dropped down to try out Bob's Atomic Burgers for lunch. Alas, Bob's is truly atomic (if slightly expensive, deservedly) and my first visit is most likely also my last. A good burger is hard to find.

Tomorrow is my last day with Jeffco, and ironically tomorrow is also going to be the first really ugly commuting day of the winter season, those early season surprises notwithstanding. Am I sad? Well, yes and no. As much as I like a good sufferfest on the bike, compulsory suffering has a way of wearing on you.

I'm going to ride tomorrow no matter what Mother Nature throws at me. I regret that my window for breaking the 22mph commute barrier has closed though.

So tomorrow will be my final bike commute in Colorado. I'm sure, as long as the post-carbon apocalypse holds off, that I'll ride again in Colorado, just not as a working stiff. Leadville. Yeah, Leadville.

I'd wanted to carve up a bit of singletrack before we leave, but the reality of the Big Move has prevented that. No more prairie bike commutes. But I can't say I didn't get my fill while I had the chance. I have no regrets there. I prairie biked to my fullest potential. I left no trail unridden within line-of-sight of the Taj.

I'd love to spend a little more time in Buffalo Creek. I never got up to the Lyons or Ft Collins areas. Vedauwoo! That's okay. I got at least a little taste. I've filled in so much of my mental map. When we come back to visit we'll know right where to go. Fruita and Moab.

Things change; life takes on new textures. New adventures await.

We should be pulling into Kentucky with our moving caravan with a couple of days to spare before the end of the Mayan calendar. Who knows what this next life will hold? Time will tell.


Monday, December 3

Discretion Versus Ego

I woke to the sound of howling winds outside my bedroom window. Ah, if I were to be blown to Kansas on my morning bike commute the ride back to Denver would put me within reach of 5,500 miles for the year.

Mandy offered to drive me to work and I gladly accepted. I knew I was giving up 11 miles toward my 2012 tally, but the trade-off seemed prudent. And I didn't really feel like riding into a headwind from Kansas.

That's okay, I'm late shift my last three days on the counter, I'll do a couple longer morning commutes the next few days and make up for it.

Discretion has not completely won out.

I assume I won't get to ride much after my last day on Friday, by you never know. There's just so much to do to get ready for and to execute this move.

It feels like a mental headwind battering me each day.

Saturday, December 1

Monthly Mileage: Big November

I had no idea how this past month was going to play out. Last November I rode 382 miles which was respectable considering all the holidays. But previously November had been low in mileage for me.

My final tally is 361.6. Less than last year, but a respectable second highest November.

What is notable is that I surpassed my previous annual mileage this past month. In 2011 I rode 5,100 miles. On November 19 I ticked over 5,100 miles for 2012. I'm currently just shy of 5,200 (5,195 and change) for the year with one last week of bike commuting to go. Maybe I can crack 5,300 and go out with a bang.

My average monthly mileage for the year is: 472.3. I have no real projected mileage. I'll get in one more week, maybe another 100 miles if I'm lucky, and then all bets are off. I don't expect to ride anymore in 2012, with the impending move and all, but you never know.

A number I've not really reported much on, but have calculated occasionally, is my daily average for the year. It's right around 15 miles a day as of today. That's an average of 15.5 miles a day for 365 days. Sunday through Saturday, all holidays, bad weather, sick days and the like.

Obviously I will not have ridden all 365 days of the year, but I've kept up a respectable daily average.