An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The walls are closing in on me

And it only took a week.

'Tis growing season, after all.

So for those that have been following along, I've been surreptitiously cutting some single track trails on the company property around my work site over the last 6 months. The site services folks have been kind enough to lay fresh crushed rock on all the service roads, rendering them both more difficult to ride and dumbing them down almost to the point of "what's the point". By laying this fresh crushed rock at the beginning of the rainiest part of the year, everything in the mix that would normally pack down and bind it all together was washed away, so now it's just a 3" deep moving surface of dig-in. Don't turn too sharply!

ANYwho... The new trails are the new, better playground, lacing their way through the woods that are only sparsely cut by the service roads. I figured that once spring rolled around I'd need to do a little maintenance.

Following the wettest months on record with a nice sunny week, during which I did road rides or was otherwise disposed during my workday and couldn't ride, nature did a little push-back.

It's amazing just how much happened in one week. Scotch Broom not only in full bloom, but in many cases a good foot plus closed into what was open space. MY TRAIL! I swear I could actually SEE them growing as I rode past, each lap getting narrower and narrower...

So instead of cutting new trail, I'm going to need to spend a couple days widening the existing trails. Again.

But I will win.

And considering that all these trails were cut in the last 6 months, giving a few extra days to keep them open is a small price to pay.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Can summer be far behind?

It seems like it's already here. At least for a few days.

The mercury is inching up past that eight-oh mark.

I dig this. Entirely. I know, it's only April. Global warming? Bring it.

I love warm, nay, HOT weather. At least what passes for "hot" in these parts. Upper 70's to mid 80's is my happy place. Riding in it is joy.

Don't get me wrong, I sweat. A lot. Follow me on a ride and you'd swear we found a rain squall. You look up searching for that errant grey mass, only to realize the source is much more terrestrial (and... ew!).

I did a long ride yesterday, starting in the still-a-bit-chilly hours and ending in the it's-kinda-warm early afternoon. Just over 4 hours in the saddle, most of which was a local charity ride that winds south into the Cascade foothills and back.

Oddly, the Daffodil Classic ride, at least the longer loop, doesn't pass by any of the daffodil fields.

On today's ride I got to bypass the morning chill and go straight to sleeveless jersey. By necessity I had to take it a little easier. But I didn't mind one bit.

And it seems like the wimps are already complaining. "It's too hot." "It's so muggy." Never happy...

Anyway, there's a couple more days in the forecast in that oh-so-perfect weather to enjoy before we get back to what makes this the Pacific North-Wet.

I'll do my best to enjoy it.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Kids are amazing

Much has been written about how it is far easier for a child to adapt to riding a bicycle if they never have training wheels. I'm glad to say that my daughter is well into that curve on her first venture outdoors on her kick bike. Check the video below for just a short example of how daring she got within just a few minutes.


And for the record, "One more time," was actually about another 100 times.

This is actually her second kick bike (both Mjolnir Cycles creations). I made the first one with the saddle much lower, as she was only 15 months old at the time, and on the 35th percentile of height. That forced the rear wheel back, making the wheelbase long and the bike difficult to turn around. This one has a shortened wheelbase, much better for riding in the house and maneuvering around furniture and toys, and she's had it for about a month. She's just 2-1/2 now.

When I came home from work yesterday, my wife and daughter were out behind the house enjoying the sun. It didn't take long for her to find the slope to the asphalt slab and use it to gain speed, gliding with her feet in the air and steering to maintain balance. And most importantly, even when she fell a couple times, she just dusted her hands off and got right back on the bike to try again.

She favors "pretty" shoes and loves to wear tutus. But she is also very physical. 

We're betting she'll be looking to get into BMX racing soon -- in patent-leather bike shoes, pink helmet, and a racing tutu.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Joint Base Lewis McChord ride

February has been another wet month, but it did allow a few days of respite, and some unseasonably warm temperatures.

My wife and young daughter took a week to visit her family out of town, and I took advantage of the weekend with outdoor extended riding each day. This culminated in a day on the exercise areas of Joint Base Lewis/McChord (JBLM), hundreds of acres of wooded and meadowed lands laced with service roads and no big hills. Perfect for a nice long cruise.

I'd been out in these areas twice before, both times relying on the "easier to ask forgiveness than permission" factor. I figured the worst that could happen was that I'd be escorted off the range and sent on my way. With some recent happenings in Texas, where riders were being fined and having their bikes confiscated, I'd take the higher road and actually get permission to ride.

I was clued in by another local rider that the process was simple, and free, though a little time consuming. Contacting the Range Command office at JBLM, I found where to go and made the trip in to get my permit. Aside from that, it was just a matter of seeing which zones were open on the day I had to ride, and mapping out a route that avoided the areas closed for exercises and endangered insect breeding (yes, seriously, there are areas that are closed indefinitely due to being breeding grounds for certain endangered insects).

The weather on the day looked to be perfect, climbing to near 60 at the warmest, and mostly cloudless. A welcome change from the last few months of near constant rains. I embarked on my 50 mile route at about 9:30, with temperatures hovering in the low 40's.

After a few miles of pavement, I turned north into the woods and gravel roads. Quietness and solitude. 

As I rode, certain things caught my eye, and I found the theme of the day -- trees and water. The gravel roads were mostly dry and in good shape, but several have fairly fresh gravel laid down, so the going was slow at times.

Second water crossing,
not conducive to riding.
Right at the half-way point I hit my first water crossing. A concrete ramp on both sides made it easy, and it was only about a foot deep, allowing me to ratchet the pedals one-footed and stay completely dry. But just a short distance later, I met up with a more challenging stream. Paved with concrete blocks spaced about six inches apart, and an undetermined depth, I decided to doff my shoes and socks and carry the bike across. Riding through this would have been disastrous. So I strapped my shoes onto the bike, hoisted it onto my shoulder, and carefully picked my way across.

Fortunately this one ended up only to be about knee deep. But this is February, remember, and temperatures had only elevated in the couple days previous to this, and the water was running at a fair clip. My feet were numb by the time I was half-way across. Thank goodness for wool socks! I got feeling back within a couple miles, and continued on my way.

Third and last water
crossing -- deep
and cold
This view never gets old.
About ten miles later, I saw a sign up ahead that read "Approved for..." For what, I wondered. As I neared, though, it became apparent. "APPROVED FORD." Meaning another water crossing. This one running faster and deeper. Like the first, though, it was paved with concrete ramps on both sides. Again, I doffed my shoes and socks, strapped them to the bike, and started across.

Slowly the water got deeper. Past the knees... Still downward. Feet numb all over again, I hoped that I didn't step on a sharp rock. Finally the water level stopped at just below crotch height (whew!), then began ebbing again. I dropped the bike on the other side and let the water run off before putting my socks and shoes back on and continuing on my way.

Fortunately that was the last water crossing. I was able to keep my shoes on the rest of the ride, winding my way north and east, finishing back where I started in the Walmart parking lot.

Two McD's cheeseburgers for the road got me back home.

My permit is good for two years... I'll definitely be back.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Green River Cyclery and Busted Bike Cafe Grand Opening

I attended the Grand Opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for the Green River Cyclery and Busted Bike Cafe yesterday -- also still going on today -- the first time I'd done so for any bike shop (or any business at all, that I can remember).

The shop has been in existence since some time in 2014. How is it that I hadn't heard of this place until just a little over a week ago? Regardless, I have now, and I can say that I'm glad. A fellow rider had opted in for their Grand Opening on Facebook, which then showed up on my news feed. Hurrah for social media!

I'd introduced myself to Josef Forsberg, owner, over Facebook messaging prior to the day. I came in with some ride flyers for the Elbe Multi-Strada Loop Ride and the Lucky Masochist's Gravel Deuce, and business cards for Mjolnir Cycles and he welcomed me warmly. We had a short conversation, and then I took a look around.

The layout of the shop is a little different than anything I'm used to, and it is a refreshing change: the checkout stand is right in front of you when you walk in the door, and the shop/repair station is right behind it. To the left lies a 4-sided display of tools, locks, pumps, and patches, and clothing beyond. A half-dozen or so bikes are on display also.

But the thing that sets this business apart is the area on the side of the bikes. A full cafe, with sandwiches, pastries, coffee (and this being Seattle-ish and all, it's not just coffee -- full barista fare), beer and wine. Wait, what? Beer and wine too?

There's a Calfee fit-cycle to help with getting your ride dialed in perfectly, Brooks saddles, Surly, Jamis, and State bikes, Park tools and Pearl Izumi and Surly clothing. And several other items and lines I'm missing.

As I waited, I bought a sandwich and drink, and talked with some of the others that were gathered around. Turns out many of the people there were extended family. I had a nice conversation with Josef's father, Bruce, about bikes and the shop. At some time, Bruce related, Josef told him that he had been his inspiration for picking up cycling and eventually opening the shop. Josef's wife Kyla had always wanted to run a cafe, so this is their dream and collaboration.

There's a great atmosphere here. I can easily envision dropping in for an issue with a bike, and dropping into the cafe for a repast while the mechanic sorts it out. Or just stopping in as a refresher during a long ride.

The shop is not large, and I don't think it needs to be. At 8 S. Division St in Auburn, situated just a block east of the transit center, in sight of City Hall, and just a short hop from the Interurban Trail, they've got a good location. While this isn't so much "local" to me, I make my way into Auburn often enough that I can still stop in a couple times a month without going out of my way.

I wish them well, and see good things ahead for them.