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Showing posts from May, 2009

Ready to roll

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So this is what my bike looks like loaded. I couldn't find a wonderful place for my sleeping pad so I finally just strapped it to the aero bars. Sleeping bag, spare tubes and clothing go in the seatpost bag. The bivy, batteries, headlight battery pack, med kit, pump, filter (if I decide to bring it) and food go in the frame bag. I hose-clamped a bottle holder underneath the frame so I have a place to carry a bottle. The rest of my water, tools and electronics go in a backpack. I've carried it with as much as nine liters of water inside. It's not too bad. The bike, on the other hand, is heavy.

But that's how it goes. I'm a tourist, not an ascetic. I haven't weighed the bike at all. These are things I'm best off not knowing. But I've made considerable improvement since my cross-country tour six years ago, when I carried a laptop and accessories that weighed close to 10 pounds by itself, along with a six-pound tent, a pillow(!), a full-sized Thermarest, thr…

Road bike ride

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The transition between the virtual world and the real one is strangely fluid. Since I left Alaska, I've had the opportunity to meet several people that before I only knew - or knew of - online. It's strange to look into the eyes of someone you've only seen pictures of, hear the voice of someone you've only seen text about, and really feel like you know them. I find myself listening to their stories and saying, "Yeah! I remember that!" Of course I don't remember that. I remember the blog post they wrote about that. The line between virtual and real is often more blurry than we're willing to admit, and I'm one of those people that's OK with that.

Today I met up with Elden and his friends for a road bike ride up the Alpine Loop. Since I don't have a road bike, Elden was nice enough to lend me one of his. He even gave me his geared Ibis road bike and rode his singlespeed so I'd feel more comfortable. But road bikes are still fidgety creatur…

The Stansburys

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I headed out to Tooele County today to visit my friend Mary Ruth in Grantsville. I worked in Tooele for three years and lived there for most of 2004, but I haven't been back since I left rather suddenly and moved to Idaho Falls in November of that year. Mary Ruth and I had completely lost touch, but she randomly e-mailed me a couple weeks ago and I wrote back one of those, "Hey, I'm in Utah!" replies. We planned dinner at 6 and it's a long drive to Grantsville, so I thought I'd make a day of it with a ride in the Stansbury Mountains.

I took the long way through the town of Tooele just to see what had changed, and felt a little unsettled by my first drive down Main Street in nearly five years. Tooele is the kind of place you can grow to love, but it is what it is ... a strip mall town in a rather desolate valley that's home to a chemical weapons incinerating plant and a big Army depot. I was fairly unhappy when I lived there. I weighed 25 pounds more than …

Clipless pedals hate me

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Elden recently lent me a super-posh pair of Sidi cycling shoes to test out and determine whether or not I'm as inept on clipless pedals as I claim to be. I was skeptical, but one doesn't borrow a $300 pair of shoes and not at least try to fall in love with them. I bought a used pair of Time pedals in Hurricane, but decided to keep my platforms on through that trip because the riding there is hard and my knees and one elbow were already scarred.

When I finally set to removing my old platforms, I could not get them to budge. Rusted to the crank arm they were. My dad, armed with a fat crescent wrench, a hammer and a piece of lumber wedged against the crank, could not remove them. I eventually took the bike to Canyon Bicycles, where a pro with a big long pedal wrench failed on his first tries. I was certain I was looking at buying a new crank. But the mechanic took the bike to the back of the shop, and 20 minutes later came out with two fairly bent pedals and a stern lecture about …

Land o' Zion

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I spent the past few days in the southwestern corner of Utah. The purpose of my trip was to get the Karate Monkey overhauled by master mechanic Dave Nice in Hurricane (pronounced Her'kun), and visit my grandpa in St. George (Saint Jahge). And these two tasks just happened to reside in an area with spectacular biking, and on a weekend where early-season monsoonal moisture kept high temperatures in the low 80s. (I was fully expecting 105.)

I had a late, slow start Thursday and showed up just a few hours before I was supposed to meet Mr. Nice. I stopped in the town of Virgin for a quick ride, and chose a random gravel road off the map and ended up rolling along a high plateau just outside Zion National Park. The views became more spectacular as the road climbed steadily, and I was more than 2,000 feet above my car when a front brake pad popped out, again. This had happened to me a few days earlier and I replaced it with a new one, but it didn't seem to sit right and I became con…

When worlds collide

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This is a picture I've always wanted, ever since I started blogging. It's a picture of me with Fat Cyclist, aka Fatty, aka Elden Nelson. Back when he was still on MSN Spaces and I was mulling an entry into an impossible-seeming race called the Susitna 100, he sent me a Banjo Brothers seatpost bag as a prize for writing what is possibly the only funny thing I've ever written - an essay on bungee cords. Now look where we are. He's helping raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight cancer and I'm ... in Utah. It made sense that we meet up to go for a ride.

He invited his friends, Dug and Brad. I tried to warn them all that I am a flailing klutz, a timid one at that, on a mountain bike. I have stamina but no skills. "Think of your 6-year-old niece and take me where you'd take her," I told them. Maybe I forgot to tell them that. Either way, I showed up with my Karate Monkey, which is currently having front brake problems, and Elden offered to let me b…

The Oquirrhs

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I headed west today with little more than a vague memory of some doubletrack near Herriman and a rough connector road to Middle Canyon, one of my favorite places to ride back when I was a non-mountain-biker living in Tooele, Utah. More than a million people live in the Salt Lake Valley, a once-barren valley surrounded by two large mountain ranges. The Wasatch Range, to the east, was deemed the crown jewel and is now home to a dozen ski resorts, countless campgrounds, trails, paved roads and mad development in general. The Oquirrhs, to the west, remain largely unvisited and unknown.

For all the years I lived in Sandy, Salt Lake and Tooele, my Oquirrh experiences are limited to Middle Canyon and one mountain bike ride near Herriman in which I tore a calf muscle on an endo and couldn't walk normally for two months (I wasn't a mountain biker back then, mind you. I'm so much more graceful now. Ha!) I was feeling really lousy this morning - in an emotional sense - and decided I …

Facing the fear

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No amount of laughter from the back of the boat could muffle the screams in my heart. They burst from my chest, 190 howling beats per minute, pressing every cell in my body against the relentless rush of the Colorado River at flood stage. My ears, however, could only hear the primal roar of an explosion of rapids. The canyon was closing in like a funnel. Water as black as the sheer cliffs burst into torrents as white as the sun-blinded sky. They crashed against the rocks, building mountains of whitewater surrounded by a vortex of whirlpools. "That's it," said Hansel, the oarsman. "That's Skull." I glanced back at him. His face betrayed no emotion. I gripped a strap with icy fingers and held my other hand against my chest, grabbing for breaths as hyperventilation set in. My body stiffened and I felt helpless to turn away from the roiling mass in front of me. I faced it with a conviction that, despite everything I do with my life, remains a rare one - the ho…

Trial by fire

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I placed the water valve between my blistered lips, coated in salt and sand. I bit down hard and licked at the tip with my swollen tongue, trying to extract the last drops of water from the shriveled bladder. Nothing. Even the air inside was gone. I stopped pedaling and looked out over the shadeless expanse of desert. There wasn’t even a rock large enough to crawl behind. Chiseled sandstone peaks marked the rims of two great rivers - so inaccessible to me that they might as well have been in Alaska. I knelt in the hot sand to rest, the stop my head from spinning, to work to rationalize away my growing fear. I hadn’t seen another person since I passed a vehicle-supported group at least seven miles back. I had no idea who if anybody was in front of me. I knew I had at least 10 bone-dry miles before the trail dropped off the plateau toward the Green River. All I had to work with was a narrow line cut into the sand, stretching toward the sun. How I hated the sun.

“Bring lots of water with …