Monday, July 24, 2006

Hiding Out in Missoula

If you have mountains, you have passes...steep climbs and long ones. But two passes in a day is tough: like day 4 with Badger and Big Hole Passes. It was the second one that almost did us in. After climbing pass number one, Badger Pass, the winds picked up. Altogether we climbed over 3000' that day. The summit was so gradual at the very top and the headwinds were so stiff that I couldn't actually tell when I topped out. In any case I was having to pedal long after the hill must have started down.

And then what should have been a 12 mile coast into the town of Jackson, turned out to be 3 miles of coasting and 9 miles of hard work.

Oh...and it was hot. Very hot.

When we finally got to Jackson I was out of water...and I had been carrying a gallon. I filled up a water bottle at the campground sink and could only get hot water out of both taps. I saw the owner coming and asked, "Do you have another faucet? I can only get hot water out of this one."

"Hot water is all we have," she said. "Jackson is built on a hot spring. It's perfectly good to drink."

We filled our containers, but had to let them cool in the night air before drinking from them.

Now after a couple of days where the terrain on the "Route Elevation Profile" looked like cartoons, I was ready for a break...especially since not all of the riding had been on pavement. Mike and I chose an alternate route which was the actual trail of the Lewis and Clark expedition as well as the trail the Nez Perce used fleeing Col. John Gibbon's U.S. troops in 1877. And it wasn't riding UP Gibbon's Pass that wore me out, it was the hell-bent descent over the handlebars that I was trying to avoid. That rock and gravel forest road dropped 2000' in 7 miles into the town of Sula...a town of basically one building and a campground.

We reached Hamilton in an easy 35 miles the following day. Notice the termperature on the restaurant sign next to our motel. It is not often that one finds such a large thermometer that will even go to 108 degrees! That is why we were staying in a motel...and we picked one with the very best of air-conditioning systems. We froze our asses off.

Speaking further in a personal vein, despite having drunk a over gallon of water a day for the last couple of days, my total urine output less than a cup.

So here we are taking a day off in Missoula...sort of recovering, sort of relaxing, sort of trying to prevent putting too much stress on our old bodies. This is the home of the Adventure Cycling Association, which published the maps we are using. We went down there today. One of the cool things about the place is that they have a lounge for touring cyclists with free ice cream bars and soda pop.

We talked to a couple of guys there. One rider was from New Orleans. He had been on the road a long time and felt he really had nothing to return to. His droll recollections were a riot!

We also met Allen Ho from California. He has a great "crazyguyonabike" website that lets you see every day or just certain areas...very nice. Allen is also going to Canada, although he was not sure he was going all the way to Jasper. What a great couple of people!

Tomorrow we leave for Seely Lake with fresh legs.

For another account of this and especially for more details and really beautiful pictures, follow Mike Moye's Roadrunner Tracks. His is not a blog, so the new stuff is at the bottom...not at the top. Check it out.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Carp Love Pink

SOUTH BOSQUE BIKE PATH--Oh I could be Mr. Natural here and go on and on about Snowy Egrets, muskrats, ducklings, goslings, and lizards. I could tell you about the sounds of feral chickens emanating from the undergrowth near the Garden of Glass. But I know what you really want to see: that 30 inch long carp in the clear ditch!

I've seen it for the last couple of weeks...and yesterday I took its picture. I swear it is 30 inches long! And I hear that with its poor eyesight, it will take a bite out of your toe in an instant. So if you decide to go wading you're going to need more than a pair of Teva's.

And what ever you do, don't paint your toenails pink! They love that.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rituals of the Last Ride into the North

NOB HILL--As Mike and I get closer to boarding that plane for West Yellowstone, it becomes apparent that this is not just another ride. We both realize that this is the last, the end, the culmination of four years of bike riding. So far we have gone from Polomas, Mexico to Montana. This next ride is the last stage. It is the end of the road.

We have ridden the continental divide right up the paved spine of America. The road ends 600 miles north of the Canada Jasper.

Our succumbing to the rituals of ending this journey is seen in the attention we pay to things that never mattered to us before: new matching sox, business cards to pass out to people we meet along the way, and now actually writing out equipment lists. We have new tubes, new tires, new cameras, new tents, new stove. We are taking a new laptop. I'm even riding a different bike--the Gary Fisher mountain bike I used on my bikepacking adventure earlier this summer in the Jemez Mountains.

Mike and I talk every day. We have plane and motel reservations. We have a route schedule for all 20 riding days. We meet at bike shops. We just bought extra spokes, brake and deraileur cables, and an extra bright tail-light for that early morning ride up Going-to-the-Sun Highway.

I can't think of anything I have ever done that is like this. There is no fear...just excitement. This is going to be SO BEAUTIFUL: West Yellowstone to Jasper, B.C. by bike...1100 miles of beauty at an average speed of less than 10 mph.

There is also some anticipation of the end of it all. That, my friends, is not a happy thought.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Cougars Deployed to Irag and Afganistan

NOB HILL--A 24,000 pound Cougar? Well, I'd never heard of one...until today.

Defense Update reports the following regarding the new mine-protected armored patrol vehicle.
As of June 2006, there are more than 130 Cougars and Buffalos in Afghanistan and Iraq. The vehicles have taken about 1,000 IED hits without a loss of life, said Wayne Phillips, a company vice president in charge of Marine Corps programs. The vehicle has proven to be superior to less protected vehicles, such as the up-armored Humvee or armored trucks.

They even have a picture of a Cougar damaged after running over a mine: the crew had only minor injuries. Quite a vehicle!

Thanks to BAGnewsNotes for keeping an eye out. keep our troops safe! But what a world when a Sunday drive through downtown Bagdad demands this kind of a Cougar.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Good-Bye to the Bikes

NOB HILL--Sunday Mike Moye and I leave on a plane for West Yellowstone, Montana. Our bikes left today. We are finishing a bike trip we started 3 years ago. The route runs from Palomas, Mexico to Jasper, Alberta in Canada. We have done a state a year for the last three years.

It has been a route that basically follows paved roads right up the continental divide. I imagine we have crossed it 20 times by now. Last year we made it across Wyoming to West Yellowstone, Montana. Sunday we return there. We have reservations at the same Evergreen Motel we stayed at the day we left. The only difference is we are a year older and a lot less fit than when we stopped last July.

This then is the culmination of 3 years of bike riding...full-loaded bike touring one state at a time. It promises to be spectacular. I will try to keep up this blog as we travel. We are taking a laptop. Also, Mike has his own account of our adventures on Roadrunner Tracks. He has already started, including maps of the route through Montana.

So today we took our bikes to The Bike Coop to be disassembled, boxed, and sent to the Freeheel & Wheel Bike Shop in West Yellowstone where they will be put back together. They should be ready for us Monday morning.

The Bike Coop is also boxing up our trailers, although we will check those on the plane. Greg Overman explained the complexities of fitting everything into a box so there will be no bulges that trip the laser measuring devices UPS uses to fix rates. Even the bottle cages have to come off. The bikes go out today; we pick up our trailers tomorrow.

Make sure to check back...and look at Mike's website (over on the sidebar under "Waypoints") for even more fun on two wheels.

Mayor Opens Fire on Teddy Bears (Posted on the DCF)

NOB HILL--Who thought THAT was a good idea? The mayor must have too big a posse and too little time to think. No man ever did himself any good picking a fight with a teddy bear waving a Legoland flag and clutching a doll. As it was, his 25-person posse wasn't enough to scare off little Beth Everitt, APS Superintendent of Schools. Read the full story on the Duke City Fix.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Last Time I Saw MaryAnn...

NOB HILL--I took MaryAnn to the airport yesterday and I won't see her again for about 6 weeks. I can only ask myself what sort of fool notion made me think that riding a bike up and down mountains for 1100 miles was worth being away from her.

Men have always roamed matter how much they were in love. What is there in us that keeps saying Good-Bye?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Six for Dinner at the Shiraz Grill

SAN MATEO & OSUNA, NE--MaryAnn leaves for New York tomorrow. Tonight six of us met for supper at the Shiraz Grill on Osuna near San Mateo. Getting together like this has become something we like to do with our friends on almost a weekly basis. And we like to go to new places.

Driving to the Shiraz Grill involved using I-25. This is not my favorite place to be at 5:30 in the afternoon. But the drama that was unfolding in the sky to the east made me glad to be out there. Here in New Mexico it is sometimes called Walking Rain. Tonight you could see the edges of that downpour as it walked across the foothills. What a welcome sight!

Anyway, MaryAnn and I got lost. We were the last to arrive. At least we got there before the food order had gone into the kitchen. For those interested, the people at the table are (from left to right) Joe the Gumball King, Mike O'Bike, Johnny, The Beautiful MaryAnn, Carole, and Marcia...(both are also beautiful but they do not reside in my domestic precinct).

The restaurant features Persian cuisine. The food was great and inexpensive. My dinner consisted of dill rice and a couple of ground chicken logs full of delicious seasonings. I ordered it by its location on the menu: P-1. I'm sure it had another name...I neglected to write it down...something like chicken piddileh. Two of the other dishes at the table were lamb shanks and chicken in a kind of simmered curry sauce mixed with nuts and currants. MaryAnn said it started with a "K" but was sure it wasn't Chicken Kevlar.

It is a small, clean place with Persian music in the background. The food was excellent. The owner, Saeid Setareh, was there cooking. Our server, Ali, was helpful and attentive. The cost was more than reasonable: My wonderful dish was $7.99. The other dishes were comparable.

The restaurant has been open for about 4 months. Mr. Setareh says they are going to be adding some outside tables soon. That would be nice. But we were very comfortable inside.

One of the reasons I am writing about this place is that I feel we need to support the good efforts of our local people. Otherwise there will be nothing left but national chains. The Shiraz Grill is an excellent way to not only get a good meal, but to experience a cuisine that is rare enough to give your evening an exotic beginning. Give it a try.

Shiraz Grill
5505 Osuna Rd. NE

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The King Kong of Afterschool Programs: Monte Vista Chess Club (Posted on the DCF)

NOB HILL--The mayor attacks afterschool programs. But does he really understand their role in the lives of children? I take a look back at my 6 years at the helm of the Monte Vista Chess Club in today's Duke City Fix.

Monday, July 03, 2006

11 Days and Counting: I Check the RailRunner Platform at El Pueblo

NORTH VALLEY--I was amazed at the progress of the work on the north valley platform at El Pueblo. The last time I wrote about it they were just grading what is to be the huge parking lot. But I think the work has proceeded in a timely manner, considering the track ownership issues brought up by Attorney General Patsy Madrid.

Not only that, the platforms are beautiful. Look at the hand-done tile work accenting the columns. Look at the human scale of everything. I am so sick of looking at minimalist utilitarian structures for public use. It is as if politicians are afraid that anything nice would be attacked for being wasteful. We are people...we NEED nice. Not only that, how do you attract riders if the stations look like concrete bunkers.

It is the hand-wrought nature of the finishing touches that impresses me, right down to the bee-hive pattern of the brick pavers. We have been told we are a "consumer" society. All work seems to have been shipped overseas to the cheapest maker. All we do is consume the cheapest product.

Craft work, even the minor elements shown in the platforms, empower us. They show that somebody here still knows how to make stuff!

By the way, their is a bike path exit right into the platform. Just thought you would like to know.

We have less than two weeks until the opening of the rail line: July 14th. I wonder how excited everybody connected with this project is? I know I am.

Let me make a prediction. Martin Chavez will be "mountin' to the cabin" on the first day. Chavez will drive this engine and blow that horn. Also, none of us...the people who actually paid for it...will be on the first train.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Johnny_Mango's Sunday Wallpaper: Victoria Harbor

NOB HILL--I know I haven't kept up with writing. I hope this shot of downtown Victoria, B.C. makes up for it. We stayed here two nights in the Embassy Hotel right next door to the beautiful Parliament building. Just in case you are inspired to visit, the Embassy cost $99/night. This is the "cheap" wing...the one without air-conditioning. However it was a huge room with a nice view, two king-size beds and a fully stocked kitchen. We were there early enough in the season so that the air-conditioning didn't matter. Also, remember that is $99 Canadian...about $90 American.

The Sunday Poem: Marie Howe Sits in a Tree

American Life in Poetry: Column 066


Some of the most telling poetry being written in our country today has to do with the smallest and briefest of pleasures. Here Marie Howe of New York captures a magical moment: sitting in the shelter of a leafy tree with the rain falling all around.

The Copper Beech

Immense, entirely itself,
it wore that yard like a dress,

with limbs low enough for me to enter it
and climb the crooked ladder to where

I could lean against the trunk and practice being alone.
One day, I heard the sound before I saw it, rain fell
darkening the sidewalk.

Sitting close to the center, not very high in the branches,
I heard it hitting the high leaves, and I was happy,

watching it happen without it happening to me.

Reprinted from "What the Living Do," W. W. Norton & Co., 1997. Copyright © 1997 by Marie Howe. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

I like her poems. Check this one out!


Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living room windows because the heat;s on too high in here, and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping the bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss -- we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless.

I am living. I remember you.

—What The Living Do (W.W. Norton)