Friday, July 12, 2013

Moving through the world

Sometimes Beat complains when I go too many days without updating my blog. I tell him I just want to avoid writing anything that sounds too defeatist or whiny. It's just been one of those weeks. Or months, I guess. Even at age 33 I find myself thinking things like, "I don't like July 2013. How many days until July is over?" As though the simple flip of a calendar page can turn everything around.

Not that I should complain. Work is going well — both Alaska newspapers and collaborative book projects (my own projects, sigh ... they need a boost. But it's hard to motivate toward creative projects when I'm feeling blue.) Beat is on fire at his job, and he's pumped about that. We have great adventures planned ... all the more reasons to count down the days in July. But I've been feeling frustrated about my physical state. My left knee continues to improve daily on an incremental basis, but the fact that it isn't 100 percent yet seems worrisome. I wonder if the bashing three weeks ago triggered some underlying overuse stuff. It feels a bit like chondromalacia, which gripped my right knee for years but strangely doesn't seem to crop up anymore. Maybe it's left knee's turn? I wonder.

Careful (perhaps arguably over careful) handling of this minor injury has limited what I can do outside, which also makes me feel a bit blue. I fight it, though. Motivation slips with my mood, but I get myself out there anyway even if I have to run easy, just so I can look at the world. Even when it's hot again and running feels like the last thing I want to do, I do it anyway. Inevitably, the simple act of going outside lifts me up. Yesterday I had to take my car in for service, and spent the two hours it took wandering the neighborhood — in the outskirts of San Jose. Pawn shops, car dealerships, and an outdoor mall. But the simple act of just walking around and observing the traffic of life had a positive effect on my mood; I was happier and more fired up for Beat's and my planned run in the evening. Staying on the move, looking at the world — that I think is my base motivation for nearly everything I do. I am just not wired to sit happily in one spot.

Our Wednesday run was relatively difficult (relative, that is, to my current abilities and perceived fitness, which is a disconcerting realization in itself.) So I decided to go for an easy road ride today, just up to the top of Steven's Creek Canyon and back. As I was pedaling up the canyon, a black truck with tape across one of the taillights buzzed me close, pulled into a pullout directly ahead, and turned around. I didn't think much of it until about a minute later, when the same truck buzzed me again, this time even closer. I could feel a whisk of forced air against my shoulder, and then I saw the driver waving his middle finger out the window. About a hundred meters ahead, he flipped another U-turn. At this point, I was frightened and wondering, "What's wrong with this guy that he's so angry at me?" I was just a solo cyclist, pedaling on the right edge of winding dead-end canyon road with a posted speed limit of 25 mph. And the next thought, "Well, here it is, the incident that's going to turn me off to road biking for another year. Who knows what he'll do when he turns around again?" And then, "What is he going to do? Why does he have to be so ragey? Why the hell do people hate cyclists so much? We cost them seconds of time and they respond with acts of terror."

After several more minutes he had not returned, but I was still frightened. Maybe he was waiting for me in a darker corner near the bottom of the canyon. I had no desire to turn around and find out, so even though I planned an easy out-and-back ride, I veered onto a spur road called Redwood Gulch, which climbs 1,000 feet in less than two miles. Some of the switchbacks are way too steep for my tender knee, but I figured a little knee pain was better than being assaulted.

The climb was strenuous and instead of feeling better at the top of Redwood Gulch, I just felt more upset about the incident, so I kept climbing. I pedaled a little bit harder to try to push out some of the anger. The knee pinched a bit but really, it's probably in better shape than I give it credit for. I climbed to the crest and turned onto Skyline Drive. There was still this irrational fear that this guy was back there somewhere, and I was not keen on turning around. I passed the Long Ridge trailhead, and even though it rightfully annoys Beat when I ride his nice carbon road bike on dirt, I decided I could use a brief off-pavement venture to relax at the overlook, away from cars.

Funny, but plowing those skinny tires through a thick layer of summer moondust on singletrack did wonders for my foul mood. It was kind of silly, kind of exciting, and required enough concentration to funnel my thoughts into the moment. Fifteen minutes later at the overlook, with the marine haze shrouding the golden hills, I was smiling again. I pedaled down Page Mill and turned a one-hour ride into something closer to three, but it was worth it.

It doesn't need to be much. I just like to get out there. At the base of my outdoor, endurance-focused lifestyle, that's really all it's about. 


  1. ahhhh....sweet! I see a new post here, and the FIRST thing I see is a pic of you in CYCLING GEAR!

    HOORAY!!!! (I love your cycling adventures the most. Yes, I'm biased...what can I say?)

    I chuckle at the thought of you taking Beats beautiful Specialized carbon high-zoot wonder machine on dirt trails...(sorry beat). And I give you huge credit for that at the same time...don't think I'd want to try that myself (that's what my Mt bike is for).

    Scary stuff on that truck...I agree that I just can't FATHOM what fuels their rage...I'm sure they had some bad experience with a bunch of asshole (sorry) roadies, riding clear across the road blocking the lane completly, and if he honked he prob got a few 'fingers' in response from said elitist riders...and thus a cyclist hater is born.

    I'm ashamed at the roadies that do this kind of thing and feel justified fof their actions..."I have just as much right to the road as he does" (which is somewhat true, but it's HOW you use that right which makes all the difference).

    Here's hoping your knee heals up fast so you can get out there more and regain your upbeat disposition! (oh, and I chuckle at your's one of my fav months, which goes by ALL too quickly!)

    Viva le Tour!

  2. Boy, I am the SAME WAY when it comes to foul moods and working them off. Not to mention not getting outside enough tends to put me in a 'mood'.

    Even just a short ride that I blow myself out on helps put myself back into a manageable state of mind. Good for you taking it out on the bike, and not someone else.

    I hope your knee continues to get better, and I hope your summer turns around! Good luck!

  3. Omg! I had to comment but that is an absolutely frightening encounter with the fellow in the truck. That would have freaked me out as well. It is one thing to drive by once and honk or flip you off, but to keep turning around and driving past a woman alone?!

  4. Hey black truck with tape across one of the taillights, this middle finger is for you...and here is a second one for you too.

  5. I know this probably does not help but I would give a lot to be 33 again you just have so much wonderful.time ahead of you. ps. marry beat and get on his health insurance. then you can get your knee checked. :)

  6. Nice echo'd my thoughts...(didn't want to seem pushy so have kept it to myself)...but now that this thought is out in the open....

    All I can add is be very careful letting medical stuff slide for whatever reasons. Yes, you are still young and invincible (but becoming more 'vincible' by the year as you are starting to see and feel)...but things left untreated now can haunt you for the rest of your life. And you don't which injuries that will be until it's too late.

  7. Jill: what a scary experience on Steven's Canyon road. Please report it to the police, even if you did not get the plate.

    Matt: I am troubled by your comments, ie, speculation that elitist roadie rider behavior fueld the driver's rage (for which there is no evidence; he could equally be an angry kind of guy, or enraged because mountain bikers share the trails with his horse, etc). Nothing justifies deliberately and repeatedly trying to side-swipe or scare a rider with a vehicle. Nothing.

    Steven's Canyon road mostly has quite a wide shoulder and there is plenty of room for riders in the bike lane, even for two abreast in much of the road. Readers should not form the impression that this is a very narrow, very windy road (though, I concede that I don't know where Jill was at the time of the attack- the road is a bit narrower at one end).

  8. I feel like I'm kinda in the same place this week, not with an injury, but because I've got a cold. Summer colds are the worst. Getting outside and just walking around really helps my mood with that. Your body seems to like cycling a lot more than it does running.....

  9. Agreed, that comment that cyclists bring this on themselves is scary in itself, no one deserves to be bullied with a giant metal object. That kind of behavior is entirely unacceptable, whether it's focused on a single woman riding in the bike lane, or "asshole roadies" blocking the entire lane.

    Man, you have sad knee, I have sad knee, and it sucks. I hope we both get better head can't handle injuries so well, especially when I have to back out of fun plans. That's the double whammy when you're an active person - your social life revolves around said activity. All I can say right now is it's a good thing we didn't go on our tour, I couldn't even handle an abbreviated headlands ride last night. wah!

  10. I came back to comment that you ought to report the incident to the police and I see someone has already suggested it. There is never any excuse to harass ,threaten or intimidate another person. I only mentioned the single woman thing because he knew exactly what he was doing and how vulnerable it would make you feel.

  11. Mary — I actually do have health insurance through Beat thanks to Google's wonderful progressive benefit policies. Very grateful for that. But prior experience with wonky knees and health care makes me reluctant to go that route. I poured a lot of money into deductibles, uncovered PT, etc., back in 2007 only to effectively be told I had chondromalacia and it "just takes time." These types of injuries can be hard to narrow down, and I don't consider it detrimental yet.

    I didn't contact the police as I didn't see the guy's plate number. I tried very hard not to turn my head or give him any indication that I was regarding him at all. I only know he was a man by his thick, hairy arm and wrist watch. I never saw his face. Given how little information I have, I'm not sure it would do any good. But I hope he's not up there regularly harassing cyclists in Steven's Creek Canyon. There are a lot of cyclists who use that area and it wouldn't surprise me fully if he lives nearby and just really hates cyclists.

  12. " There are a lot of cyclists who use that area and it wouldn't surprise me fully if he lives nearby and just really hates cyclists."

    All the more reason to report him Let the police decide whether the report is worthwhile.

    Thanks for your blogging. I'm twice your age but you are still the first blog I read each week; quality writing and inspirational.

  13. @NadiaMac...I think you misunderstood the gist of my comment...In no way do I mean that cycilsts DESERVE any harrasment or such on the road...I'm just saying that we ourselves dig our own holes when it comes to vehicles and bikes sharing the road.

    It only takes one episode for a driver to become a 'hater' for life...I'm both a roadie & mtb'er and I've had more than one occasion in my car where roadies will be 4 or more abreast on a narrow road (with normal traffic) refusing to even go down to 2 across, and then I get the finger or two from said roadies when I'm finally able to pass. No wonder they (vehicles) hate us. Does't mean it's ok to scare us though..(I'm sure any other roadies out there can attest to more than one 'close pass' truck mirror. Being as I ride alone a seems a single rider is seems way more at risk of harassment techniques from the haters. Had a soda (paper cup...7-11 type) thrown at me once too...barely missed...that would really be unpleasant to catch a big gulp in the back/head at speed. And a few other scary moments of deliberate harassment. From my experience the authorities aren't too interested unless you're 'hurt' by said actions.

    Guess that's why I actually prefer mtb'ing to the road...and guess what? We've even created haters there too! Only takes one insane 'scary' event for hikers meeting up w/ a mtb'er going WAY too fast on a multi-use trail, and just like that they are also converted, and it's very hard to change someones opinion once it's set in stone.

    I ride my bikes (road and MTB) as an ambassador of peace...will stop and chat w/ horses/hikers on the MTB, and be uber-courteous both road and trail...same w/ cars..I do my best to HUG the right side of the line, but still get horns beeped and some pretty close mirror passes. And those are the intentional ones...the fact that people are out there in vehicles texting and such...THAT is scary! The cell phone is the most dangerous thing to road cyclists since the invention of the car! (had a guy from a local club killed last year as he suddenly accelerated from 20 to 65mph on the hood of a land-yacht..pass by his little road-side memorial a couple times a month and it's always sad).

    But're right..I DID speculate...and you never know..that truck person might have had an entirely diff reason for being such an ass to a cyclist than bad encounters...I'm just saying that we create SOME of the bad feelings through our actions...I see it every day.

  14. Well that sucks.

    You've written a good description of the man's behavior and its effect on you. You may want to write a version with a map and times. If you gps'd the ride, add the record to the account. If you called anyone during the ride, or took a picture, add those facts to the file even if unrelated. Do this much at least, please.

    If you call the cops, describe and document any contact with the them, get the officer's name. It may be that your police contact(s) will help support a civil anti-harassment order even if criminal charges don't result. Obviously a last resort should the man repeat his behavior.

    The police may already know the identity of this man. He may have done this before. They may have some good advice. Or, they may be no help at all, and dismissive. You may want to call and ask to speak to another officer, if you feel that you weren't taken seriously.

    Please carry a phone and earbuds for at least several weeks. If you feel uncomfortable, and it's not 911-worthy, call a friend to chat. But call 911 if this happens again, especially on this road, and certainly if similar truck or hairy arms! Repeated harassment is a very, very, very bad sign. This man crossed that line already, imho, by buzzing you twice. I believe you described two (three?) discrete incidents of harassment.

    Consider a helmet cam for a few weeks. The cam itself may deter aggressive action if visible, though also possibly encourage it. In my experience, holding up a phone cam scared off a scary dude. However, it is better evidence to tape your whole ride to prove unwarranted harassment. A camera might have caught the plate number, but also previous, unnoticed times this truck passed you (if it did).

    Don't say a word to these violent drivers or passengers, but call someone, preferably the cops, especially if they stop or return. Even if they have a legitimate complaint, the cop can mediate.

    Pepper spray. Y'know, in case of dogs and wolves and bears.

    Keep riding.

  15. Whenever I read about your knee pain now I always wonder what it would feel like now if you had dropped out of that race and iced your knee to help prevent swelling as soon as it started locking up and getting worse in the race. Even football players know when it's time to take themselves out of the game when they're injured and can't perform. For some reason you thought you were being a tough girl for pushing through the pain and finishing the race, when in reality all you probably did was make things worse and delay the recovery process. If you would have pulled out of that race right after you got hurt you might already be feeling better, and your month wouldn't have been ruined. Basically you accomplished nothing by pushing yourself to go on when you were hurt.

    As far as the road rage incident goes, I've read stories about drivers yelling at cyclists to get the hell off the road and the driver was mad because he pays taxes to use the road and didn't think cyclists should be out there because by cycling they're somehow not paying taxes to use the road. I guess the drivers somehow think cyclists don't own cars too. It's probably mostly a cycling thing, as I don't think idiots like that would harass joggers for not paying taxes.

    Basically when it comes right down to it there are just some ignorant redneck assholes out there, the fact that he had tape on his tail light just goes to show what type of person you were dealing with. People like this just get their jollies out of pissing on someone else's day, if he wasn't harassing you he'd probably be out tailgating somebody just to get on their nerves. Morons like this know because you're on a bike you're pretty much defenseless against a vehicle. The best defense against people like this would be a .45 pistol in a shoulder holster or a fanny pack. If some jackass harasses you then turns around and comes back all you'd have to do is pull your bike off to the shoulder, pull out your pistol and hold it in the air, then rack the slide in full view of the clown. If he knows you're packin' chances are he's not going to screw with you anymore, and he'll think twice about pulling this same crap again on the next cyclist he sees. ;)

  16. Two more cents... report the angry driver to police. Even if you don't have complete information, if he harasses others, it could provide evidence to help. I don't know about California laws, but in Wisconsin, that driver could be charged with assault.

  17. Holy cow, Jill. Scary. I'm glad you're ok. At the behest of your readers, please please please report the incident and don't be stubborn.

  18. Inglourious BasterdJuly 17, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    I imagine roadies will start packing heat when carbon-fiber Glocks weigh 3 grams and sport aero styling. But I have met tourers who claim to pack, though their logic is often kinda sketchy.

    The man in the pickup will likely have the bigger gun, better cover, superior mobility, and preferable angles. He can drive away, pick off a neon-clad cyclist from a thousand yards, and still make it to happy hour at his NRA chapter.

    If you do decide to pack, brandishing and racking a gun may give the driver a self-defense basis to shoot you or run you over, and you may be liable for any accident resulting from his evasive action.

    Think before trying this on a bicycle:

    Even the NRA will tell you to keep it holstered unless you are ready to kill a human. And was that a baby in the back seat? Jail isn't kind to a training schedule.

    It's rarely in a bicyclist's interest to initiate escalation to the gun level.

    Not that guns might not have a role in the most serious sort of confrontation. It's worth at least trying to keep the cop's gun, taser, and handcuffs aligned with your point of view. Cops aren't particularly sympathetic to Reservoir Dog wannabes on the blacktop, no matter their preferred mode of transport.

  19. "If you do decide to pack, brandishing and racking a gun may give the driver a self-defense basis to shoot you..."

    ...particularly if you live in Florida.


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