Saturday, 13 November 2010

Soaking Up the Sun

The in-laws wanted to spend time in Death Valley for their 50th Wedding Anniversary. In late October who am I to argue?

The family enjoying the sun at Furnace Creek and checking out the charcoal kilns

Tracks in the sand dunes: Can you identify 1) roadrunner 2) a twig blown in the wind and 3) Robin aka dunewalker?

Then we popped over to Yosemite for some pretty fall colors:

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Two, Two, Two Goals in One!

I had 2 goals I wanted to reach this year and I had the good luck to achieve them both in one day - and - more importantly - had fun doing it.

Saturday, August 7 I finished up the last ride needed for my R-12 while completing the 3 Volcanoes 300km on tandem with rando extraordinaire, Peg Winczewski. I have a feeling our "record" for an all female tandem on that course will stand for some time.

A few pics courtesy of Jason Dul:

Me and my special Peg 3000 engine

Where to find randos in the early morning hours

Checking out views along the route

Jason, the photographer, his front wheel encountering gravel, and Kole and Jennifer climbing Babyshoe Pass

Randos at a watering hole - gotta watch out for crocodiles!

The tandem conquers Babyshoe and a group shot at the top while donating blood to the mosquitos (apparently the atmosphere at Babyshoe has a special quality that makes me extremely UNphotogenic)

A river crossing just outside of Trout Lake

Beautiful scenery to distract us from that final climb up to Elk Summit and and ominous looking sight at the top

Sunday, 13 June 2010

A Soul Reviving Day

Robin was planning to join the boys for a 1000km brevet in the Blue Mountains of Oregon leaving me unsupervised and gazing in wonderment at the weekend forecast. Mitchel suggested the Flying Wheels Summer Century which I hadn't done in dogs' years but he invited Jason too so it was tempting. Then Jason's anti-social side emerged saying he hated crowds and waiting in line at sani-huts so how about doing the Mountain Loop Highway 200km permanent? FISH ON! I had been wanting to do this route and the prospect of getting to ride with Jason made it a "must do". At the risk of jinxing myself I'll also say that I needed to do a 200km this month to make it 10 out of 12 for my R-12 endeavor.

After what seemed like decades of grey, wet, and cold weather Saturday emerged like a sparkling jewel. Clear blue skies, singing birds, children frolicking, and BBQ's smoking. I picked Jason up in Redmond (I offered to drive in order to ensure he wouldn't desert me!) and we headed to Snohomish. I stuffed a Snickers Dark in my mouth just before Jason took our "start" picture outside the 7-11.

We started about 20 minutes late but neither of us seemed to feel any pressure. Unlike recent rides where I wanted to get done before it got TOO dark, TOO wet, and TOO cold today promised endless warmth and sunshine.

Given the 14 miles of unpaved road on this route Robin had fitted my Rambouillet with no fenders and extra fat and cushy tires. Being extra fat and cushy they felt pretty sluggish on the pavement - or maybe that was the engine's fault - and Jason gave me a hard time for stopping to check first if a brake was dragging and second if my tire was going flat. We did discover that the rear tire was mounted with the tread in the wrong direction so I had my excuse for riding so slowly! I could complain about shoddy work to my mechanic but I can already anticipate the reply. Something along the lines of "you can mount your own *&^%&^% tire from now on" so I think I'll keep my mouth shut on that one.

First control in Arlington and we got water to top off our bottles. Jason found one of the two zip ties attaching his light to his helmet had broken and the second was looking iffy. He didn't have cutters so he removed the light and then just tightened the remaining zip tie into a stylish "horn" and dubbed himself rhinocesquatch (a version of sasquatch which is his usual self-imposed moniker)

(now THAT's Rando!)

Most of the route from Arlington to Darrington is along Hwy 530 which is fine for about 15-20 miles and then you are really ready to be done with it but you still have about 7+ miles to go. Jason employed his time along the route taking pictures and waiting for me.

We had our first lunch stop in Darrington. Most of the times I have visited this little town it has been cold so it was a real treat to sit at the little picnic table in the sun munching a sandwich and chips and reapplying sunscreen. We had about 2 hours in the bank even with our late start but we had the big, unpaved climb ahead of us so off we went. Just a few miles later we are greeted by the "pavement ends" sign which, in this case, translates "and the fun begins"! I was so impressed with this road. It was packed solid and smoother than 95% of the roads in Skagit County. There were a few potholes but easy to navigate and the vehicle traffic was low and slow. Most of the road followed the Sauk River through the Mt Baker National Forest so we had the beautiful rushing river and breathtaking mountain views complete with snow topped peaks and gorgeous waterfalls.

Pavement Ends:

This was the place to be on this gorgeous day:

The climb did get steeper towards the top but there were only 2 or 3 sections where I had to hit the granny gear and plenty of thigh relieving flat and even short downhills spots along the way.

After we reached the summit the pavement picked up again and we dove down the mountain triumphantly. We stopped at a picnic site for second lunch and some intense sandwich trading negotiations. A lovely lady with a foreign accent told us what great cyclists we were and our heads swelled so much we had a hard time getting our helmets back on.

We did have some headwind on the way to Granite Falls but I had wisely brought along my own personal windscreen. I only had to relieve his efforts for short periods to keep him going! Somewhere around Verlot we saw a guy riding a penny farthing bicycle in the opposite direction - too cool!

In Granite Falls I luxuriated outside a mini-mart by sitting on the sidewalk while munching a giant ice cream cookie sandwich. There are times when Granite Falls, a piece of concrete, and a fat-loaded dairy product are my idea of heaven and this was one of them. My big revelation here was that for the first time in a very long time I was saying to myself "we only have 21 miles left to enjoy" rather than "I only have to survive another 21 miles". It was a nice feeling which lasted for about 10 minutes after we left Granite Falls and started hitting the hills. Dubuque Rd was engineered by evil men with the sole intention of reducing randonneurs to tears. They didn't get the best of me this time however so they quickly regrouped and threw 131st Ave SE at me. Still no tears but Jason noted that I had to use my 24 inch gear for the upper half of the climb. After that we were home free cruising into Snohomish where we were greeted by cheering throngs cleverly disguised as mildly impressed mini-mart cashiers. As I've said before, I only do it for the fame and the glamour.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Why Two-Year-Olds Rock

I should have posted about the great trip we took to Tucson in April to celebrate Archie's 60th birthday. We hiked, biked up Mt Lemmon (where I met Matt who has spent the last 2 years cycling around the US), watched the Huies rock climb, ate and drank around the pool, enjoyed hanging out with Spud and Tater, and were treated to a delicious dinner by my cousin John and his wife Peggy:

And I should have posted about the fun long weekend in East Wenatchee for SIR's Northwest Crank training camp.

And I should have posted about riding a 400km brevet in Oregon which was a fabulous route including 7 covered bridges and, unbelievably, headwinds no matter which direction I was riding and finished hearing the same birds at 4:30am that I had heard the previous morning at 5:00am:

But what finally got me to post was the simple wisdom of my grand-nephew Henry.

On Tuesday, as I was sitting in the back seat between Henry and Bennett we were discussing the concept of "it takes a village". Here's how the conversation played out:

me: Henry, you have a village.
Henry: nope
Mary: Yes you do Henry. Who are your people?
Henry: Gramma, Boppa (grandpa), Mama, Dada...
me: Aren't I in your village?
Henry: nope
me: Well I'd like to be in your village. How do I get in?
Henry: Open the door!

Friday, 2 April 2010

I'm not Mark. Or Vinnie, Or Geoff. And certainly not Kole!

Last year when some of my rando buddies started riding crazy amounts I kept saying they were nuts and that I needed time to recover between long rides. At least a week, maybe two, and three weeks in between would be lovely. I don't know when that logical approach got away from me but when I returned from Switzerland in mid-March I rode a very sensible 200k brevet and didn't feel trashed afterward. Knowing the Bellingham organizers were planning to target a nice day for their workers' ride (pre-ride) for the 300k I asked to join in. Turns out that would be only 4 days after my 200k. Luckily the group included Ralph and Carol on their tandem and Mark T so I had plenty of great drafting companions. Still, I was pretty tired by the time we finished and then still had to try to rustle up something to eat, drive home from Burlington, and get cleaned up before hitting the sack at about 3am. Luckily my sweetheart of a husband answered the 5:20am call from my sister for a ride to the airport so I could sleep a bit longer. A few more days rest and I headed out for a "short" weekend ride with the Cycle Tuesdays gang - which means intensity! I was still feeling like I had recovered well so when Mark sent out a note to the SIR list for a mid-week permanent on Thursday before the big storm hit I just fell right into the trap.

Company was great, route was good, weather wasn't quite as nice as we'd hoped but manageable and we got to see lots of friends along the way. Michael Gray, Mark, Vinnie, Dave Harper, and myself rolled out from University Village at 7:30, stopped in Snohomish at the bakery for some fuel and a tube change for me and then on to Granite Falls. I was doing pretty well and even taking a few pulls for the team but any uphill made my legs feel like lead. After Granite Falls we did the undulations along Lake Roesiger and hit some very nice pastoral roads heading into Monroe. By this time Dave had to take up babysitting duties and paced me nicely along trailing after the other riders. Early in the morning we'd seen Kole (after having ridden a 400k the day before - as had Vinnie!) on his way to work. Along the Snoqualmie River Road we came across Kent Peterson out for a jaunt planned to intersect our gang. We spent some time chatting with him and enjoying refreshments in Carnation.

Next up, Issaquah-Fall City Road. A road that meets my definition of the Irish "a terrible beauty". It is a quiet, forest-lined road that kicks my butt every time. As said butt was already dragging a bit the kicking didn't take much effort. Vinnie managed to adjust his usual quick climbing pace to my slow slog and kept me company all the way. That's after he'd already waited for me before Carnation when I dropped off chatting to Kent and then getting stuck at a light. After this we saw Mike McHale and Jim Rupert just finishing up an afternoon ride and they turned around to ride with us for a short time and say hi. That left just getting to the I-90 path, a little jaunt around Mercer Island and back north to University Village. Now Mark was on duty shepherding me along as I got slower and slower on each hill. When we reached Mercer Island I called Robin at work so he could meet up with us on the other side of the lake and join us for dinner at the end. I started off in pretty good shape through the winding curves on the east side but once we hit the rollers on the west side of the island the wheels completely fell off and it was a real slog-fest from there to the finish. Mark showed incredible patience (as had all the guys the entire day) and got me back in one (albeit pitiful) piece. A big mug of beer and a bacon blue burger never tasted so good!

Next morning result - yes I do it for the glamour! If only my bike and I could defy gravity on the hills the way my hair defies gravity after going to bed with it damp!

Now, I'm going to take a long recovery break - really - don't even think about asking me to do a long ride - I mean it!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

On Human Kindness

I don't read or watch the news every day. Too much emphasis and top stories about war, hate, violence, and other bad stuff. A step outside into the "real" world time and again gives me a perspective I much prefer. A little example from yesterday:

My travel itinerary was a car ride from Lucerne to Zurich, flight from Zurich to Frankfurt, flight from Frankfurt to Washington DC, flight from Washington DC to Seattle. The first 2 steps went off without a hitch. In Frankfurt we deplaned onto the tarmac and caught a shuttle bus to the terminal where I went down various hallways, several flights of stairs, and was halfway down a "disappearing into the horizon" moving walkway when I realized I didn't have my purse. Yes, the purse with my passport, money, credit cards, phone, boarding passes, etc. I swung a leg over the handrail, jumped off the moving walkway (long legs come in handy at times like this), and headed back the way I had come but didn't REALLY know where I had come from. I found the Lufthansa gates and was told I needed to go to lost and found. Funny thing is - lost and found wasn't easy to find - ironic? yes, I think so. I eventually found Lufthansa's Baggage Tracing desk. I had kept it together pretty well until then but after getting out that I had left my purse on the plane or the shuttle bus I could no longer speak without the threat of a full tearful breakdown. The lovely Lufthansa agent asked which flight I'd been on and I couldn't remember the number - just that I had come from Zurich. A nice man behind me stepped up with his boarding pass from the same flight and asked if that had been the one - yes, thanks! Then she wanted my name but I couldn't spit it out. "Just write it down" she urged pushing a pad and pen towards me. Then she said she needed to go to another location to make some phone calls and for me to wait. I was there about 20 minutes trying to stay calm as the time for my connecting flight got ever closer. I was wondering just what one does in a foreign country with no ID and no money - would I need to get to the American Embassy? have Robin come from Lucerne to bail me out? live at the airport ala Tom Hanks in Terminal? When the Lufthansa agent returned she told me she was waiting to hear back from several areas and that I should go to my connecting flight gate and if they found it they would send it there. I tried to return the way I had come but, as that would return me to a secured area I couldn't get in (I did try but set off an electronic warning). I realized I wouldn't be able to get to my gate without my ID and boarding pass so returned to the Baggage Tracing desk. The woman was on the phone and gestured to me to wait. A few minutes later she walked over and told me they had found my purse! I was SO relieved. She had to go get it and didn't know exactly where it was so I was again instructed to wait there. Another 20 minutes or so and she was back with my purse. I had missed my connecting flight so she instructed me to go to rebooking. At the rebooking desk I explained what had happened and at first the agent told me she couldn't do anything for me. Apparently a flight booked with miles and missed due to your own stupidity doesn't qualify for rebooking (makes sense but wasn't what I wanted to hear). She then started looking closer and said the original itinerary was one that probably shouldn't have been booked in the first place as the connection time was too close - and my incoming flight had been a few minutes late - so she decided to rebook me anyway! I was so grateful! I ended up with a better itinerary on Air Canada through Calgary on a half-empty plane.

Whew - too much drama! But mostly alleviated due to the kindness and honesty of total strangers. That's the kind of news I'd like to read about more often.

Monday, 1 March 2010


Doing some backtracking here. For two weeks last August Robin and I drove visited Scotland and had a few adventures. Our friend Barbara Blacker reminded me that I had yet to share any pictures so here goes:

Sunday August 2 we drove from Farnborough to Kelso, home of the ruined Kelso Abbey.

Before driving on to Edinburgh we did a walk along the coast from the fishing village of St Abbs.

August 4-5 we stay in a cool small hotel in Edinburgh and tour the castle, Royal Mile, Carlton Hill, and the HMS Britannia.

View from our hotel room:

Walking around town:

The castle:

August 6-8 we take the overnight ferry (very NICE!) from Aberdeen to Lerwick, Shetland Island and spend 3 incredible days walking and touring around these rough, remote, and beautiful islands.

In Aberdeen a statue of William Wallace and a beautiful lamp post:

The Aberdeen skyline as we depart for the Shetlands:

Of course, a Shetland pony (baby) and first stop - Sumburgh at the southern end of Shetland to look for puffins. We saw some but not very close up. The nesting season has ended early this year and there aren't many left.

We make a trip to the northernmost inhabited island of Unst and do a walk of a nature reserve. Absolutely deserted, wild, and beautiful. A boardwalk (in the process of being replaced with Trex-like decking) to protect the bog leads us to the cliffs:

Here we get to see some puffins up close. They are very fun to watch. They have a distinctive flight with stubby wings for "flying" underwater and beautiful beaks. We kept missing them as they'd fly out from the burrows to fish and we couldn't tell where they returned in all the different headlands. Robin watched one take off and directed me towards the burrow while he stayed in place. I got about 20 yards from it before the puffin returned and I called Robin over. The bird left again and we ventured closer. A puffin returned and stood on the edge of the cliff looking at us with tiny sand eels in its beak. We wondered why it didn't return to its burrow. It took off again in a wide circle out over the water then flew back towards us. We watched in anticipation to see where it would land so we could get a close look. The puffin flew in fast and hot right into a burrow nearly under my foot! We had accidentally stood nearly on top of its burrow so in order to avoid the stupid tourists it had to dive bomb into its burrow rather than make a nice landing and walk in! Sorry Puffin!

A little taste of walking on the island of Unst:

Robin checks out a turf field and we do our best to keep the Shetlands clean by "dunna chucking bruck":

After a "day off" and then a rainy and traffic-filled drive down the east side of Loch Ness we spend August 11-12 in Glasgow. We saw a piping competition and did a walking tour of the city. On the way we stopped at Culloden - the battlefield where the Scottish received the trouncing that would signal their final defeat at the hands of the English and the end of their independence. We didn't go into the museum but instead walked around the battlefield itself which included some markers with indicators of where the opposing forces established their lines and where clashes took place. Not many of the visitors actually walked the battlefield so it was quiet and a bit eerie.

Scenes in Glasgow:

To wrap up our trip we spent 2 nights
with Dick and Lucy McTaggert whom we met prior to PBP 2007. They took us on a walking tour of Galashiels and then a nice walk around St Mary's Lake despite Dick's aversion to traveling on 2 feet rather than 2 wheels.