Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Arrowhead 135 in 2008

Hey Folks,

This is about as long range as I get when it comes to planning. I'll be riding the 2008 Arrowhead 135. It's a good chance to get back to my old stomping grounds for a visit. I'm just starting to cast around for sponsorship now but the wheels are in motion, so to speak. The 2007 race just wrapped up and you can read about it here:

In terms of a bike, I'm thinking about a fixed gear Surly Pugsley. I've got emails into the folks at Surly and Dirt Rag and I've got a few other things in the works. And yeah, I'll be doing various other things between now and next February. Stay tuned to my blog for more details.

Kent Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Shocking News!

For those of you who know Sandiway Fong, this is shocking news:

Next up, George Bush orders all the troops out of Iraq, Ed Begley Junior buys a Hummer and Grant Petersen starts selling 12 pound carbon Rivendells.

The Big Lebowski Ride Report

I'd promised Peter Beeson that this report would be published first in the SIR Newsletter and it took a while for the newsletter to hit the streets and the web. There is a lot of other neat SIR stuff in the newsletter and the SIR website, so check out:

to keep up on all the SIR doings.

And here, at long last, is the story.

The Big Lebowski 600K

Sept 30th -- Oct 1st 2006

a ride report by Kent Peterson

The Dude: "Look, let me explain something. I'm not Mr. Lebowski; you're Mr. Lebowski. I'm the Dude. So that's what you call me. That, or Duder. His Dudeness. Or El Duderino, if, you know, you're not into the whole brevity thing."

I can't say that I know why John Kramer, a man sometimes simply known as "the Kramer", chose "The Big Lebowski" as the name for a 600 kilometer bicycle ride through the high desert hills of eastern Oregon. I know that the Kramer has a fondness for that fine film and I've deduced that he also has a fondness for the hill country. And I can tell you from experience that 600 kilometers is not a distance that you ride a bicycle if you are into that whole brevity thing. But there's a whole gang of folks who do these rides, folks called randonneurs, whose ideas of fun are perhaps a bit skewed from the norm. And this is the story of some of those fellows and a ride known as the Big Lebowski.

Early Friday afternoon Peter Beeson, Bob Brudvik and Eric Vigoren stop by the Seattle Bikestation where I work and we load my bike next to theirs in Peter's van and drive south. Those who drive trade off driving and we all pitch in money for gas and we read through the Kramer's pre-ride report and wonder what we are getting ourselves into. The pre-ride report is a depressing document, filled with dire details of the various climbs that conspire to pack 22,500 feet of climbing into 600 kilometers of riding. But successful randonneurs ponder with pessimism and execute with enthusiasm. Or something like that. Perhaps we can only fear our fates and ride with resolution.

I ask about the general scheme for the ride and find that Peter's plan is not mine. "We're all planning on sticking together," he tells me. "I don't think so," I reply, not from any deep-seated hermit instinct but rather from my own experience that while "All for one and one for all" may be a fine motto for Musketeers, I have to see what the day and the road brings. If I happen to be riding at a pace that matches the others, I have no problems riding with them but I also have no problems falling back if I'm feeling slow. Conversely on the rare occasions where I'm feeling speedy, I have to act on that and move on.

By early evening we are at the The Dalles, Oregon. We check into the Motel 6, drop our bikes and gear in the rooms and head out in search of sustenance.

"Lady, I got buddies who died face-down in the muck so you and I could enjoy this family restaurant!"

We dine mostly without incident at Cousins, a family restaurant a few blocks from the Motel 6. I say mostly because there was the thing with the food... well, Peter's thing with the food. Peter is very precise in his tastes and accurate in his instructions. So when they don't have a pitcher of Diet Coke, the order is for five Diet Cokes, delivered simultaneously. Not five Diet Cokes for the four of us, five Diet Cokes all for Peter. Peter's ribs should be on their own plate, no other food on the plate, no condiments should contaminate the purity of the ribs. Eric requests that Peter's foregone food be delivered to him. I have not been party to dining with Peter previous to this occasion but Eric and Bob assure me that this is standard operating procedure. "You should see him at a McDonald's drive-thru," Eric advises, "separate bags for each person." "Precise instructions avoid confusion," Peter explains. I don't believe that Peter has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). I suspect he may have CDO, which is like OCD except that the letters are in alphabetical order, the way they should be. I nod and say slowly "Peter, I can safely say that if you were a woman and I was single... we would not be dating." Remarkably the wait staff at Cousin's comply with all of Peter's precise instructions and we stuff ourselves like men on the eve of battle.

Back at the motel room, Angelina Jolie keeps Bob and I up way past our bedtime. This is not nearly as exciting as it sounds.
Bob flips on the TV and browses through the channels. He stops on the the channel we are both powerless to resist, the one with Angelina Jolie bouncing around defying gravity as Lara Croft, Tomb Raider. We should be getting everything packed up and getting as much sleep as we can but instead we are hypnotized by the screen. It's not like the complex plot has drawn us in, I think this is the second Tomb Raider movie and Angelina seems intent on retrieving some kind of amazing orb. This, of course, will put her way over quota in the amazing orb department but still we watch way too much of this movie. Eventually, a commercial comes on and breaks the spell. Bob looks at me and says "I know we should get some sleep, but I want to make sure Angelina gets out of this OK." "She gets out OK, Bob. Trust me. She kicks a bunch of guy's asses and saves the world and everything is fine." Bob glumly shuts off the TV.

We don't get enough sleep but I wake up on cue a bit before our early AM wake-up call. In the cold, starlit morning we check in with the Kramer at the parking lot next door. There are ten of us here to ride. Susan France is too smart to ride this thing but she is here to help the Kramer out. She will be the roving field support for the ride while the Kramer will crew the start, the end and the overnight control. That just two folks can run a ride of this magnitude shows that those Oregon folks are very smart, hard working and well-organized.

Today I'm riding an old orphan steel Bianchi mountain bike that I've adopted and adapted to my own randonneuring purposes. The bike sports fat, tough tires and fenders and bags of my own design, made from recycled coroplast campaign signs. Peter and Bob are both on Bianchi San Jose single speed bikes, their single gears silently mocking the 27 gears of decadence I have on my Disraeli geared machine. Eric is riding a wisely geared Fuji touring bike. Eric has logged more brevet miles this year than any other Seattle Randonneur but even Eric's collection of kilometers is eclipsed by those of the always cheerful and damn near always riding Ken Bonner. Ken is here with his well-worn titanium kilometer eating machine. The other five riders are folks I don't know: Jon Beilby, Albert Kong, Greg Olson, Scott Peterson and Paul Whitney.

It's dark and early and cold when we take off at 5:00 AM. We roll and warm up and as we wind our way east out of town I chat with Ken Bonner. I'm familiar with Ken's speed and I rightly figure that this will be the last I'll see of him on this ride. We head north across the river and across the wind. We turn right and follow the road along the Washington side of the river. The pavement here is less-than-smooth but the wind is at our backs now and the speedy folks take full advantage of the tailwind. Most of the other riders are faster than me and I watch their tail lights get smaller and eventually fade from sight. It's beautiful and desolate along the river and the rising sun reveals a panorama of red and gold and sage bluffs rising alongside the river.

At 8:52 AM Paul Whitney and I are the last two riders through the control at the 93 kilometer mark, a tiny store called the River View Mini Mart. The day is already growing warm and while I'm usually quick through the controls, Paul is quicker. I fuel up for the road ahead with chocolate milk and Payday bars, fill my bottles with water and stow a Gatorade in one of my coroplast panniers. I stash my warm clothes, slather on some sunblock and at 9:06 I'm rolling again.

The Big Lebowski features a blessedly simple cue sheet but even the simplest of instructions can be misinterpreted. My cycle computer is not quite perfectly calibrated and at kilometer 167.6 I'm supposed to turn right on Plymouth Road. Somewhere around that reading on my computer I see a road called Plymouth Industrial Road and it goes off to the right and so do I. I follow this road down for a bit, long enough to see that the road swoops the wrong way and ends at some railroad tracks. I backtrack, continue on and down the road a bit I find the real Plymouth Road. The real Plymouth road leads to a bike tunnel and bike trail that goes safely south over the Columbia and now I'm back in Oregon.

An old road with some new pavement takes me through the first thing I've seen since the Dalles that could honestly be called a town and then on to the next control, a busy complex housing something called a Space Age, a Quik Mart and an A&W. Susan France is here with jugs of water and various munchies and she's helping Scott Peterson deal with a flat tire. Paul is here as well. It's 1:35 PM now and warm and dry. I'd swallowed the last of the Gatorade many kilometers ago and here I load up on milk and Pecan Sandy cookies and grab a Clif Bar and green ice-tea and water for the road.

Scott and Paul leave the control before I do and shortly after I leave I see Susan's van roll by.
I soon pass Scott, who has fallen victim to another puncture, and not much later I catch up with Paul. Paul and I chat for a bit as we ride. He lives in western Washington, so he's used to this dry heat but he tells me this is his first 600K. "You picked a hard one," I tell him, "we've gone through the easy stuff, with the tailwind and the mostly flat land. It looks like it gets real lumpy from here on." We talk about our families but as the road begins climbing in earnest and our new direction puts us at odds with the wind, we focus more on turning the pedals and less on conversation. We take turns pulling against the wind for a while but gradually our respective paces draw us apart. I'm the stronger climber and on one of the many climbs I look back and see Paul is no longer in sight behind me.

It doesn't feel extremely hot but it's very dry and I've pretty much drained all my bottles now. It is still many kilometers to the next control but a roadside sign and a turn indicated on the cue sheet suggest that there is a town up ahead. That's the good news. The bad news is what I see at the side of the road: a pool of fresh vomit. I only have time for a quick roll-by forensic analysis but it looks like randonneur vomit to me. The turn is at a little town called Lexington and Lexington has a Shell station. The three Seattle Musketeers are here, including a grim looking Eric Vigoren. "I'm fine," Eric insists, a claim that would perhaps be more believable if he hadn't puked his guts out on the roadside a few miles back. I think I know what he means. He knows what's happening, what he's got to do and how he'll get through this. Eric has ridden more brevets this year than any of us. He's down now, but he's not out. It's all peaks and valleys. And he can still roll. Paul rolls in before the Musketeers roll out but Eric is recovered enough and he rolls on with Peter and Bob. The true control is at Heppner another 15 kilometers down the road the five of us all reconnect there.

Heppner is a small town where teenage girls ride to the Shell station on horses, a generalized conclusion I draw from the example of the one girl who rides up to the station while we are fueling up. We generally fuel with abandon, except for Eric, who fuels with caution. We are all delighting in savory, salty snacks, lots of crunchy, carbo-laden calories and as much liquid as we can convince ourselves to drink. Paul is still fueling as the Seattle crew rolls off into the fading light.

We roll into the hill country as a cadre of Musketeers. "See," Eric says to me, "I knew you'd be riding with us."
The temperature goes down as the sun drops and the land climbs. We're moving to higher, cooler ground and as the land rises and falls we pass through pockets of progressively colder air. We see cows and deer and horses in the fields and a sunset that defies my attempts at photography. With our reflective gear and lights we look brighter than we feel right now. We stop just past what the cue-sheet calls the ghost town of Hardman, but a few lights and voices tell us different. Even though we are climbing, it's cold and we pause to layer on more clothes. A quick descent and a small climb bring us to Anson White County Park, a dark place featuring a friendly campground host, a chance to refill our water bottles and a wonderfully warm bathroom. Only the lure of the true overnight control at Spray and the unrelenting clock ultimately persuade us to move forward.

There is a bit of a climb and then a dark descent. I'd rather not be in a group at night and I'm a light guy who descends with caution. For reasons I don't understand I'm in the lead on this descent and Bob comments on my cautious style. He pronounces the word "cautious" in such a way that it rhymes with "wuss." I can't disagree with him. I was hoping the others would zip past me but that's not the way this plays out.

As the road turns up yet again, Bob and I are off the front. Eric and Peter are riding slower and chatting and Bob is charging along. Soon Bob's pace outstrips mine and I watch his tail light move up and into the darkness. Then I notice his light stop. I roll up beside him.

"I heard something in the woods. It sounded big. It could be a bear. Or a cougar."
"Or a Sasquatch," I add helpfully. "Or perhaps a very big fluffy bunny." Bob looks at me as if I am not taking things seriously enough. "Really, Bob, I thought you were a big, brave guy." For the record, I should note that Bob is a big, brave guy. He's ridden RAAM and I figure that any bear, cougar or big fluffy bunny would think twice before messing with Bob. "It sounded like something big," Bob insists. We roll on.

It is cold and Bob comments on the cold. He eyes my wool gloves, warm ear-band and cozy Marmot DriClime wind-shirt with envy. I know that Bob has warm gloves and a cozy jacket tucked into the huge bag he sent ahead to the overnight control and they'll be a great comfort to him once he reaches the control. But it's cold now and we are still many kilometers from the control.

"You wouldn't happen to have any spare gloves?" Bob asks, hoping perhaps that I've been extra paranoid in my packing. I inform him that my level of equipment redundancy doesn't extend to the warm glove department. Bob casts one more look at my gloves, a look that I imagine is not unlike that given by the frozen man to his sled dog in the Jack London story. Bob then announces that he's going to drop back to see how Peter and Eric are doing. And, no doubt, to see if they have any spare gloves.

I roll on, ready to face bears, cougars, Sasquatches and big fluffy bunnies on my own.

I climb in the cold darkness, thinking about the flat, warm part of the day and the early tailwind along the gorge. There is over 22,000 feet of climbing on this ride and those first hundred miles were pretty flat...I'm doing some of the climbing now, but the bulk of the work lies ahead of me. I crest this climb and ride the long, sweeping descent to the town of Spray.

Spray is a tiny town. I imagine it is quiet here most days and it's dead quiet close to midnight on the last night of September. I follow my cue sheet and a few helpful blinking lights that the Kramer has placed like rando breadcrumbs along the path to the control. The control is a place called the River Bend Retreat. As I pull in, I see one of my fellow randonneurs heading out into the darkness.
The control is warm and cozy. While I feast on pizza the Kramer asks me about my plans. I tell him I'll be sleeping for 90 minutes or so and that I'll wake myself up. I also mention that I snore but the Kramer has a perfect solution in the form of a tiny room about the size of a closet. I settle in and sleep. One of my handy rando skills is an ability to make myself nap and wake on cue. Ninety minutes after I fall asleep, I'm awake. The rest of the Seattle riders rolled in while I slept and they are now sleeping in another room. The Kramer had been dozing on the couch but he gets up to make sure I have everything I need for breakfast before I head out again. I know from experience that working a rando control checkpoint can be more work than actually riding the event and I'm grateful for the Kramer and Susan's wonderful support on this ride.

I roll out into the cool, clear darkness with a full stomach, full bottles and a sandwich for the road.
The first kilometers after Spray follow the fairly flat road along the John Day River to Service Creek, but the Kramer's cautious instructions warned me of the next climb. It's very cold and the skies are perfectly clear. About once every ten minutes or so a meteor streaks across the sky. The first one took me by surprise but when I see the second one, I know I'm viewing some kind of a meteor shower. Splitting my attention between the road and the sky takes my mind off the climbing and the cold. The temperature must only be a few degrees above freezing and I've layered on all my clothes, including my Rain Legs. With the clear skies, there isn't any chance of rain but the Rain Legs give me one more layer over my thighs and knees.

After 16 kilometers of climbing, the road turns down. The climb had been cold and the descent adds a brutal edge to the darkness. I know that heat is the vibration of atoms and it seems that in the darkness every atom of my being is hunkered down and I feel I am shrinking as every molecule in my body presses close against its neighbor. I think of Tibetan monks meditating in icy caves, the powers of the mind and how the limits of men are perhaps greater than what we imagine. I try to will myself into a state of warmth and then I think of stories by Jack London and Jon Krakauer and reflect on the costs of miscalculation.

Finally I see the lights of a tiny town called Fossil and even though the route sheet tells me to turn left, I turn right in search of warmth. It is 5:10 AM.
In my years of riding through small towns at odd hours I've learned one or two useful things. One of those useful facts is this: the lobbies of post offices are open and warm. Hemingway and randonneurs know the value of a clean, well-lighted place and ten minutes of warmth can turn a man. Turn him from something that resembled a dying flame to something closer to a rising sun. Hemingway knew that the sun also rises and now it is time for me to be going. After ten minutes in the warm post office, I roll out of town.

The stars are fading and now the road goes up again. Just before sunrise I often wonder if I've slept enough and today that wonder overwhelms me. I pull the bike over beside a gate. Five minutes will be enough. I lie on the ground and close my eyes.

Five minutes are enough. I awaken with the rest of the land. The stars have faded from a glowing sky that is now filling with light and the sounds of birds. I roll slowly onward and upward.
I crest this climb and glide down the rolling hills to the John Day Fossil Beds. In the morning light I see men with guns. It's hunting season and orange-clad men are out this morning with big trucks and laser targeted rifles. This is the first time I've seen lasers in the field and I see the hunter's practicing, projecting bright dots at spots where they hope deer and lead will intersect. I see steam rising off of cups of coffee just poured from thermoses and I think that deer perhaps have learned to fear the smells of gasoline and coffee. Around a few bends where I don't see hunters, I see deer who watch me cautiously and conspiratorially, with big eyes that seem to say "whoa, Dude, be cool. Nothing to see here, move along." I move on.

Bunny Lebowski: Uli doesn't care about anything. He's a nihilist.

The Dude
: Oh, that must be exhausting.

Past the John Day Fossil Beds the hills rise up once again. The hills of central Oregon are a curving, complex geography and something more than simple persistence or brute force is required to climb them. The hills hide among themselves, the curve of the current hill hides the next one and the next hill hides another and if you let your mind try to project the sum of the series or or hope that the end is around the next curve, you will find yourself riding up a road of nearly infinite disappointment. This is the land that would drive a Nihilist mad because you have to believe in something to keep on keeping on. Words from the movie echo in my head, "you're out of your element" and "you are entering a world of pain." The Kramer is a randonneur and he knows that we endure through metaphor and distraction. By picking a movie about bowling, about friendship, about the consequences of unreasonable actions, he's equipped each rider with a bizarre interior dialog to busy the mind while the body moves across this landscape.

Walter's movie voice booms in my head, "this isn't 'Nam, there are rules." Indeed, there are rules and the rules of randonneuring define where time and terrain must intersect. Brevets have check points and these checkpoints have opening and closing times. And this is what makes this brevet, this Big Lebowski, difficult. The unforgiving clock doesn't consider climbs and the Big Lebowski packs the bulk of the slow climbing into the second day. I've ridden far easier 1200K events, rides where I've felt I could build up a time buffer and relax. I have a small time buffer in hand now but it is not enough to make me comfortable. I know the folly of extrapolating my current slow speed and I also know that, despite the evidence of the moment, this climb cannot go on forever.

Finally, I crest the last in an ultimately uncounted series of curves. My cycle computer kept track long after I stopped caring; that climb was 16 kilometers long. I'd been thinking of the Big Lebowski and free-associating my way up and over the hills. The Dude once said "he treats objects like women" and this makes me think of those hills: impossibly curving, seductively beautiful and fully capable of kicking my ass. Perhaps this isn't the Big Lebowski? Perhaps it's Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.

But now the terrain is blessedly going down. The restaurant in the tiny town of Antelope lists biscuits and gravy as the morning's special. I ask the fellow at the restaurant if he sees much business from the hunters and he tells me he's seen some but not as many as he's expected. Because of hunting season he's been opening the cafe earlier than usual and he tells me he served another cyclist very early this morning. "Boy was that guy cold!" I suspect he's talking about Greg Olson but he could be speaking of any of us.

Jon Beilby rolls in while I'm finishing my biscuits. Jon is an Oregon rider and speaks with a local authority when he recommends the Marion berry cobbler. I'm full of biscuits now and still concerned about the time and the climbing ahead so I forgo the cobbler and roll off with a couple of candy bars for the road.

At US 97 there is a ten kilometer climb. At the top of the climb is a rest area where I fill my bottles. The cold morning has given way to another warm day and once again I've wound up replacing layers of clothes with a layer of sunblock. The high desert country turns quickly between extremes, the bitter cold becomes baking heat with surprising swiftness, much like a grinding climb turns to a thrilling descent when the pedals finally crest a long climb.

A few kilometers past the rest stop I turn onto a quiet road called US 197. Here I manage to run over a tiny bit of Oregon geology, tiny pyramid of stone the size of an ant and perfectly shaped to puncture my rear tire. Jon rolls by while I'm fixing the puncture, makes sure I'm OK, expresses surprise that I could flat "those tires" and then rolls forward. Indeed, "those tires" were chosen for their strength, not their speed and I'd been impressed by the precise attack executed by my tetrahedral foe. I remove the stone shard, replace the rear inner tube, pump up my tire and chase Jon down a glorious descent that ends at the banks of the Deschutes River in the town of Maupin.

Jon and I are fueling up with water at the little park by the river when Albert Kong rolls up. It's easy, in the warmth of the day, to tell tales of how we survived the cold of the night. Jon works for Hewlett Packard and a very light Tyvek lab coat that he got from the HP printer lab had been his secret weapon against the chill of the night. We all agree that small comforts make a huge difference on a ride like this one.

We ride alongside the river, watching rafters splash in the sunlight. Jon tells stories about the area but once we cross back over the river it's time for yet another climb. Jon and Albert both are able to put more power to the pedal than I can muster at this moment, so I snap a few pictures and watch them roll on ahead.

The Big Lebowski is a ride that seems intent on teaching me to be a patient climber. Although I've come to believe that I will finish this ride within the forty hour time limit, I also believe that somehow I've spent about three weeks climbing hills over the course of the past day. I know this can't be true, but it feels like it's true.

Eventually I get out of Chicken Spring Canyon and there is a brief respite in the climbing. But soon I rejoin US 97 and the road goes up again. The cue sheet promises me that about ten kilometers ahead there is something called the Tygh Ridge Summit. Right now it feels like that summit is ten kilometers above me. I've spent many years riding fixed gear and single speed bikes but today I'm pretty darn glad I've got a bike with a low geared triple crankset. I think of my friends Peter and Bob who are still somewhere behind me on their single speed bikes. "Those poor saps!", I think.

I keep turning the pedals. I've used up pretty much every bit of Big Lebowski dialog now and a bit of an old Bob Seger song drifts through my mind, "and you don't feel much like riding, you just wish the trip was through..." I swear to myself and then another bit of the movie dialog comes to my rescue.

The Stranger: There's just one thing, Dude.

The Dude
: And what's that?

The Stranger
: Do you have to use so many cuss words?

I just laugh and pedal onward.

The Tygh Ridge Summit should be the end, but it's not. The road goes down after the summit, of course, but it doesn't go smoothly down and as I'm going up about the third damn climb after the summit I have to keep reminding myself not to use so many cuss words.

The sun is setting on this ride and this story. I pause to turn on my lights and strap on my reflective gear. I'm careful as I navigate the last turns in The Dalles and suddenly I really am done. I hand my card to the Kramer. Susan is here as well and so is Jon. They clap when I come in and the Kramer surprises the heck out of me by handing me an engraved trophy. "How did you know I'd finish?" I ask stupidly. "If you didn't finish, we wouldn't give it to you. We'd pull off the nameplate and recycle it next year," the Kramer explains. Those Oregon Randonneurs are smart!

The Kramer and Susan have food and comfy chairs here and we wait anxiously for the rest of the Seattle crew. Scott Peterson and Paul Whitney had run out of time earlier in the ride so they won't be finishing. I know my Seattle pals will keep the pedals turning, but we also all know that things can happen on the road. There are flat tires and possible missed turns and unknown things that make noises in the night.

But with about an hour to spare, three men in blue wool jerseys roll up to a parking lot in The Dalles and get these really nifty trophies. Eric Vigoren has been holding down food all day and riding with a couple of stubborn single geared fellows who managed to climb every hill with the aid of many repeated cuss words.

And the Big Lebowski is in the record books. The first, but certainly not the last, running of an epic ride. A ride in which the dudes abide.

The Big Lebowski Results, September 30 -October 1
Peter Beeson 39:04
Jon Beilby 37:25
Ken Bonner 33:32
Robert Brudvik 39:04
Albert Kong 37:09
Greg Olson 35:00
Scott Peterson DNF
Kent Peterson 37:52
Eric Vigoren 39:04
Paul Whitney DNF

Monday, February 12, 2007

Brad Hawkins: The First General Epistle unto the Cyclists

My pal Brad must have paid much more attention in Sunday School than I ever did. A few days ago I posted my version of our trip to Olympia. The following is Brad's recounting of the same events.


Chapter 1: Wherein three wise men embark upon a journey to the temple of the Caliphate; much adventure ensues.

1. On the 6th day, in the month February, three wise men did journey to the temple, yea that temple of justice on the mount Olympus to transact their business with the Caliphate.

2. Yea, it was a long journey, a journey of exceeding greatness, a journey to show the whiteness of their souls, and to bear witness of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

3. Before the first hour, as he is wont to do, Kent did hear a voice, a voice of great passion, a voice scratching on the window, asking for food.

4. And it came to pass that Kent did arise and did attend to this voice which did bid him. But behold the voice was not there, but was the voice of the eternal randonneur.

5. For Kent was a man of honest heart, a man who did walk straight in front of the Lord and with humble equipment did Kent walk before the lord, even did he ride before the Lord.

6. Yea, before the first hour did Kent arise and mount his bike, for a great trip awaited him to the temple this day to commune with others of the bicycle way.

7. Yea, In that morning hour, Kent rode his bike into the valley of Kent, nay, this great valley was not named for Kent but for some forefather who also rode straightly before the Lord (or did perhaps own a coal mine in the days of the forefathers)

8. Kent rode upon his bike to the Kent Station which, though with that name written upon its face, did contain none of the substance for which it was formerly known for it had reached a fallen state of a strip mall.

9. When Kent had arrived, he alighted from his saddle and did fall upon the neck of Michael, the second wise man.

10. And there was great rejoicing in the valley of Kent for where once was lost, now was found.

11. And so, the two wise men set upon their journey, each in turn leading the other until they had reached the plains of Fort Lewis upon the shores of Lake Gravelly.

12. On the shores of the Lake Gravelly, Kent and Michael did meet a man who was sore afraid, yea sore afraid that he had somehow missed the call of the Lord to go to the temple of justice.

13. And when Kent and Michael did cast their sight upon this man, yea, they did behold that it was Brad, the third wise man who did seek to travel with them.

14. And it came to pass that there was great rejoicing on the banks of the Lake Gravelly, on the plains of Fort Lewis, for a brother had been saved from despair and woe, and journey now could be made.

15. And it was the first hour of the morning of the 6th day, in the month of February that this did come to pass.

Chapter 2: Great trials and tribulations befall the three wise men, their mounts are enhumbled, an angelic visitation, the greater understanding in the Marvin Forrest.

1. The three wise men did mount their bikes and travel to the highway, on the road to the temple of the Caliphate.

2. But they were sore afraid, because the highway was busy and many highwaymen did leave pieces and scraps along the banks of the highway where the three wise men did ride.

3. And upon the banks of the highway did the three wise men ride today, casting their eyes low for fear that their tires would become planted upon those banks.

4. For a tire, ridden along the side of a freeway does ride quickly and lightly, yea, lighter than along other roads, especially those of chip seal, but by and by this tire is found planted by the scraps of the highwaymen and is shortly whithered and rotten.

5. Yea, this sore planting did happen not one mile from the banks of the Lake Gravelly on the plain of Fort Lewis.

6. And there was gnashing of teeth and mocking words of derision but Michael did throw himself upon the mercy of Brad and Kent so they did wait, seemingly unto the morrow.

7. But behold, it came to pass that an angelic minister came down, with a halo of yellow and orange light, yea, an angelic minister in the form of a DOT support truck with a bum knee came down and did offer protection to the three wise men.

8. Michael however, was wroth and stiffnecked, and swore that he had never been befallen with this horrible pestilence, thus angering the Lord of Tires, amusing the angelic minister, and striking fear into the hearts of the the two other wise men, for the randonneur walks gingerly before the Lord of Tires.

9. But it came to pass that when the tire was fixed, many words were spoken, and the three wise men bid farewell to the angelic minister and did set upon their way.

10. But behold, the same tire was planted a second time, and now a tube would have to be mended, yea, pronounced clean by a Livite (randonneur), and made whole again.

11. And so it came to pass that Brad did repair both tubes for Michael and there was great laughter and rejoicing as the journey did commence again.

12. Down into the Valley of Nisqually did the three wise men go, yea even down to the level of the great sea as in those journeys down to Jericho, and great speed was attained therein.

13. But in the depths of the Valley of Nisqually, Michael's tire was planted a third time and the wise men were sore afraid because they knew that they had offended the Lord of Tires by their loud laughter and bold speaking.

14. And it came to pass that along the highway, on the road to the temple of the Caliphate, the three wise men did alight from their saddles and ponder their fallen state.

15. And great gnashing of teeth ensued at the bottom of the Valley of Nisqually, and sack cloth and ashes were worn by Michael who found that his tube stem had taken ill and ruptured its innards.

16. But owing to the great condescension of Kent, a new tube was made available to Michael who was joyous and saw to it that Brad rebooted the tire.

17. Yea, and Brad did cast off the tire shield, spit out from his mouth the bedraggled tube and spewed forth the wisdom of the Tire Gods, showing forth the tire irons of righteousness, and with great thunder and applause, did set Michael right in his ways.

18. Properly chastened by Micahael's plague of plantings, Brad and Kent began to looked heavily on their own rear tires for fear that they might too be stricken with the same plague as had Michael.

19. Having found anguish and woe on this highway, the three wise men left the highway and sought refuge in secretive pathways toward Olympia so as not to cause disturbance and make their presence known to the guards at the Caliphate.

20. And thus was the second hour of the morning of the 6th day of February.

Chapter 3: The three wise men meet with the Caliph, whose heart is softened by the cries of the children. Much rejoicing ensues.

1. And it came to pass that Kent, Michael, and Brad did meet before the Sanhedrin (House Transportation Committee), did speak to the Caliph, and did speak with the spirit of the Lord.

2. And it came to pass that Brad did utter these words "For the children need to know that cycling is good for the body, bringing understanding to our souls, and should be promoted throughout the kingdom. For I work with the children and their hearts are turned towards cars and speeding. Stiffnecked are they for they will not hearken unto my words. Please make a decree that all cycling and walking and busing should be praised in the land but first in Seattle and Spokane as a pilot program".

3. And these words were met with incomprehension among the Sanhedrin,

4. But Brad was undaunted.

5. And it came to pass that Kent went up to speak before the Sanhedrin, and his words were wroth, for a spirit of Satan had come over the room in the form of an attorney from the AAA.

6. And Kent held forth with these words "Yea, it can be done, for I have done it, and have ridden my bicycle for many years, and have turned the hearts of my own flesh and blood to the joys of intermodal transportation choices. Fear not, for the day will come when all can partake of the goodness that is walking and biking".

7. And it came to pass that with these words, the judges of the Caliphate were somewhat swayed but the power and spirit of Kent and the love for his children, for they saw that he was a good and wise man.

8. With a start, the sorceress Barbara, came in with a flash and mesmerized the Caliphate with her powerful words of saving and opportunity cost, placing a great exclamation point on the words of others come in supplication, for Barbara's own flesh and blood had witnessed the transubstantiation of money not spent on cars being converted into money better spent on housing.

9. But with great power, Michael showed forth his wisdom and and led the judges and the Caliph to greater light and knowledge,

10 For thus saith Michael "yea, I once was as a little child, even as you are. Yea, I have driven many miles and continue to do so as a professional highwayman, but lo, I have taken these truths into my heart that cycling should be promoted and have live in accordance with these teachings"

11. And thus the hearts of the Sanhedrin were softened, and the bill before the judges was deemed a powerful salve to the needs of the younger generation, that the hearts of the children would be turned towards pedestrians and cyclists.

12. And it came to pass that it was the sixth hour of the afternoon of the 6th of February and all was found good in the eyes of the Lord.

Chapter 4: Great Rejoicing and the trip back to the land of Seattle

1. For it came to pass that after the meeting had closed, the sorceress Barbara did carry Brad and Kent back to the land of Seattle on her magic carpet (what? you thought we rode home too? Pshaw!) for they were enhungered and did not want to suffer the vagaries of the highwaymen one hour longer.

2. And it came to pass that Barbara dropped Brad off in the land of Lakewood, close to the shores of the Lake Gravelly, on the Plains of Fort Lewis.

3. And it came to pass that Barbara and Kent made it home without great sacrifice, and all was good.

4 But it came to pass that on the North Gate Way, in the north country above the Plains of Fort Lewis, yea, Brad did suffer at the hands of the Lord of the Tire,

5. Yea, he did suffer great affliction and was tormented with yet another planting of his tire at the side of the road on the North Gate Way, on the road to Lakewood.

6. But it came to pass that this suffering did last but a short time and Brad made it to his rehearsal just in time.

7. And thus we see that through great trial and tribulation, all men's hearts can be turned to the children and all children's hearts can thus be turned to walking, cycling, and busing.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Bicycling Around Vashon Island

Each year the Seattle International Randonneurs host a series of early season rides designed to get folks ready for the brevet series. For the past few years the series has included a ride around Vashon Island, a hilly chunk of land tucked in the middle of Puget Sound and a fifteen minute ferry ride away from west Seattle. Somehow, every year I've managed to be doing something else on the day of the ride and until today, I'd never been on Vashon Island. But I decided that 2007 would be my year to ride Vashon.

So I'm out the door at 5:32 AM and it's a beautiful, albeit dark, morning. The sun is just coming up as I wait for the West Seattle bridge to pivot back into place. This bridge rotates to allow ships to pass and it's the first time I've seen the bridge in action. Today is a day for firsts, it's also the first I've ridden with my SIR pals this year. There have been four previous Le Paysage à Vélo rides so far this year but I've been doing other things on the previous Saturdays.

I see some of the other SIR folks unloading their bikes from their cars at a parking lot not far from the Fauntleroy ferry terminal but I'm pretty much a charter member of the "ride to the ride" club. It's forty kilometers from my place to the ferry terminal and, of course, it's forty kilometers back. I suppose some folks would figure it's silly to ride 80 kilometers just to get to and from a 75 kilometer ride, but when you think about it the whole randonneuring thing is kind of silly. But nobody sticks with this sport if they don't like riding their bikes and if you like riding your bike, why wouldn't you ride it as much as you can?

I'm early enough to watch one ferry go off toward the island but that gives me time to get a cup of robo-coffee and some Gummi Worms from the vending machines in the terminal. A bunch of my fellow riders roll up and we chat about bikes and life until next ferry shows up. Peter Beeson and Max Maxon have the sign-in sheets and the cue-cards. We all get our papers in order and roll onto the ferry.

Even though I've never been on Vashon, I've heard a lot about it. The word I've heard the most is "hills" and Vashon doesn't disappoint in the hill department. As soon as we leave the ferry, we climb a hill that goes up about five-hundred feet in the first mile. By the way, being a randonneur in America pretty much makes you bilingual in terms of distances and I've resigned myself to mixing miles, kilometers, feet and meters. It's all just stuff you have to go up, down and over and as near as I can tell the world doesn't care how I happen to be measuring it. Anyway, right now I'm measuring it in gears. I brought a lot of them with me today and I've currently got my chain on the little ring up front and one of the bigger cogs in the back. Peter McKay comments about how it's strange to see me on a bike with a derailleur but I tell him that I'm finding that clever little device rather handy at this moment. Of course, Bob Brudvik manages to motor away from both of us, manfully turning the cranks on his single-speed Bianchi San Jose. But Bob is a tough guy. I'm thinking that maybe I should have brought along a rope and some pitons instead of just a derailleur and a big collection of gears.

Things level out a bit and then we turn right and dive down Burma Road. I never knew asphalt could stick to a cliff, but apparently it can. I'm still running my SnowStud tires and I'm grateful for every grippy little carbide stud and sticky bit of rubber. Climbing the Vashon hills is a test of leg strength, but descending some of those hills is a test of faith and bike handling. Brakes squeal, riders squeal and some of us pray to the gods of Koolstop.

The terrain blasts the group into sub-groups and solo efforts. I watch the fast, brave guys disappear off the front but I'm pretty sure there are a fair number of folks behind me. Since I'm new to the island, I'm kind of following the cue sheet and mostly following the riders who are just a bit ahead of me.

Cue sheets and cycle-computers rarely correspond perfectly and roadsigns don't always mesh with the names on the sheet. Somehow my point group misses a turn or goes left instead of right at some key spot. I'd been following a confident looking group that is now stopped and looking considerably less confident. I add nothing to the discussion except to confirm my lack of familiarity with the terrain and express my vague sense that we are somehow off course.

We dead reckon our way toward where we think we should be and when we pass the coffee stand that Peter had mentioned, I'm pretty sure I know what we've done. But the rest of the crew is charging on and I figure I'll follow along. My suspicion is we are now on course but going the wrong way.

My notion is confirmed when I see Brian rolling down the road towards me. Brian is one of SIR's fastest riders and he's also a pretty good navigator. I glance behind me to make things are clear, pull a u-turn and follow Brian back to the coffee stand. Brian has a fair number of riders in his wake and we all stop for coffee and snacks.

The fast guys don't stick around long but some of us take our coffee and pastries seriously. The coffee seems to activate the navigation circuits in my brain and remind me that I tend to do better when I'm watching the cue-sheet and the road and not trying to stay on the wheel of somebody faster. Wayne, Mitchell and I all head out about the same time, along with a few other folks I don't know.

There's still is a bunch of up and down but now and then the road is actually flat in places. I do manage to hit 62 kilometers per hour on one descent and I probably could have gone faster if I didn't have the SnowStuds on. My tires buzz on the pavement and on rare times when I do pass somebody, they always know I'm coming. It's a warm February day and I'm rethinking my pledge to keep the snow tires on through March. But I have this vague dread that if I take them off, we'll get hit with another week of icy weather.

We find one of the speedier riders pulled over with a flat. His spare tube has a bad valve and he's running skinnier tires than most of us, but Mitchell comes through with a tube that's small enough to fit this fellow's tire.

I'm mostly not taking pictures on the fly but Mitchell calls my attention to a bald eagle perched in a tree off to our right so we stop and I take a picture.

We're all back at the ferry terminal between 12:30 and 12:45 and we take the 12:50 ferry back to Fauntleroy.

Apparently Bob Brudvik didn't get enough of a workout riding Vashon on his single speed. Tomorrow, he's going to ride a 204 kilometer Whidbey-LaConner permanent!

Wayne's Cool Moulton

Wayne Johnson commutes to the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle and parks his bike at the Seattle Bikestation. Wayne has several very cool bikes including a really neat Moulton. Moulton bicycles don't fold but they can easily be split into a couple of pieces for transport. Wayne's bike has both front and rear suspension, front and rear racks, hub brakes and an internally geared rear hub.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Mountain Biking the Great Divide

If you are a long time reader of this blog, you already know that I raced the Great Divide back in 2005. And you probably also know that I currently work for the Bicycle Alliance of Washington. April 26th 2007, I'll be at the Seattle REI Flagship store sharing stories, images and tips about riding this beautiful wilderness route. Details are here:

The event is free but we will be accepting donations to the Bicycle Alliance. So if you are in the Seattle area, stop on by.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Transportation Lobby Day in Olympia

"Watch out for rabbits," had been one of Michael Manderville's key bits of advice while we'd been finalizing the details of our ride down to the Transportation Lobby Day in Olympia. Annually, the Bicycle Alliance of Washington coordinates a "Lobby Day" where bicyclists meet with their elected representatives to convey the importance of passing legislation to improve conditions for bicyclists. This year, we partnered up with various other non-profits including Transportation Choices, Feet First and the Sierra Club for lobby day so there were a lot of us headed down to Olympia. Since we comprise a pretty eco-conscious group of what my son likes to call "damn hippies", we weren't about to drive to Olympia in a fleet of single-occupancy motor vehicles. Rachel Smith at Transportation Choices did a terrific job of coordinating a fleet of Flexcar minivans and various van and carpools while other folks used Amtrak to get to the event. Michael Manderville, Brad Hawkins and I rode our bikes.

We'd run various scenarios on paper and Bikely and we'd realized that no matter how you work it, Olympia is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) from Seattle and it's even further from Issaquah. Michael lives somewhat closer to Olympia, in the town of Kent, and Brad was spending Monday night at his in-laws in Tacoma, which is closer still. Since we were trying to get to Olympia by 9:00 or 9:30 AM, the closest approximation of a logical plan involves me leaving Seattle an hour when most sane folks would be sound asleep. So Monday night, instead of going home, I slept in the back of the Seattle Bikestation and at 3:00 AM I find myself headed down the Interurban trail toward Kent, dodging rabbits.

There are a lot of rabbits on the Interurban trail in the wee hours of the morning. Michael and I met up at the Kent train station some after 4:00 AM and rode the Interurban to its southern terminus. I notice that rabbits run at about 25 kilometers per hour, which happens our cruising speed this morning.

We work our way over to Pacific and follow the STP route south toward Puyallup. At the top of the Puyallup hill we take a quick snack break at a Chevron station before continuing on.

There really is no good, low traffic route between Seattle and Olympia, marsh land to the west and Fort Lewis to the east pretty much wind up squeezing traffic into the I-5 corridor. Because it is effectively the only route, it is legal to ride a bike on I-5 from south of Gravelly Lake Drive to the outskirts of Olympia, so that is what we do. We meet my pal Brad at the Gravelly Lake exit and the three of us roll south on the freeway shoulder.

We all have experience at doing this. The tricky part is the entrance and exit ramps. You can either watch traffic carefully and cut across the ramps or go off and then back at each exit. Brad and I tend to watch each exit and choose our battles, taking the exit sometimes and crossing it at others but Michael is super fast at cutting across each exit. A quick glance in his mirror and over his shoulder and he's across the exit faster than you can blink. And he's definitely kicked up his speed once we've hit the freeway. "Wow, look at him go!" Brad comments.

A flat tire slows Michael down and Brad and I pull up behind him. While we're working on the flat, a WADOT truck pulls over to the shoulder and the driver turns on the truck's flashing light. It's still bit before sunrise and while we all have our lights and reflective gear it's nice to have this big, solid truck warning traffic. While we're chatting with the friendly WADOT guy, Michael says the worst words you can ever utter on a bike trip. "You know," he says, "I never get flats." Brad and I glance at each other with the certain knowledge that only comes from bitter experience. H.P. Lovecraft knew it and randonneurs know it. There are certain things you do not say, lest you anger forces that men cannot comprehend. But it is too late now.

Michael finishes the tire change, we thank the WADOT guy and we all head out.

The day had started to dawn while Michael was changing the first flat, so when his rear tire punctured again less than a mile down the road, at least we had more light to see by. Since Michael "I never get flats" Manderville never gets flats, he only carries one spare tube. And he doesn't get a lot of practice patching tubes by the roadside.

But now he sets to work patching his tube. Brad digs through his own kit and comes up with some glue and better patches and advises that we might as well patch the first tube while we're at it. We also take advantage of the time to take a few pictures.

The third flat is a few more miles down the road, again on Michael's rear wheel. By now Brad is fantasizing that he's in the pits at Indy and while practice might not make perfect, we do get this last flat changed in record time. I contribute one of my spare tubes to the cause and soon we are rolling again.

For the record, the first flat was caused by a staple, the second was a snakebite pinch flat, and the final deflation involved a bad valve stem. But we chock all of them up to the unified flat-tire theory commonly called "angering the tire gods."

We finally manage to make it off the lovely shoulders of Interstate 5 and follow Brad's lead into Olympia. Despite the three flat tires, we arrive at the meeting spot at the United Churches of Olympia, right across the street from the Capitol at 9:30 AM, just as the meeting is getting underway.

The morning is kind of a lobbying 101 course and a briefing on legislation we are working on. After lunch we all went over to the capitol to distribute literature and talk with various representatives. My own district is the 5th and Barb and I chatted with one of Senator Cheryl Pflug's assistants and we had a very good meeting with Representative Jay Rodne. I especially appreciate the time Representative Rodne took with me. We talked about the traffic in Issaquah, how transportation isn't just a problem of cars, but of moving goods and people. I talked about my kids and my wife and myself and things we are doing to try to be part of the transportation solution.

Barb Culp, the Executive Director of the Bicycle Alliance, is an old hand at this political stuff but it's all new to me so I was really glad to have her with me in these meetings.
At 3:30 in the afternoon, there was a public hearing on House Bill 1588, a measure providing mobility education to students in driver training programs. A bunch of us testified before the committee, expressing our views and trying to make a difference. I wound up sitting next to and testifying right after the lobbyist from AAA, who was the sole voice expressing reservations about the bill.

We all have various levels of speaking and persuasive ability, but my friends tell me I did a good job in front of the committee. Barb, Michael, Brad and many others testified and I think this bill will move forward. Or maybe not. Even if we don't succeed this time, we did get to voice our views.

After the hearing we all headed back to the church. Michael got a ride back with one of the carpools and Barb hauled Brad and I northward with our bikes strapped to her Subaru.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

5 Things You May Not Know About Me

OK, I've been tagged a couple of times now and ignored it but maybe the only way to stop this tagging nonsense is to post something. For those of you fortunate enough to not know about tagging, basically a tagged blogger is supposed to post 5 things the reader probably doesn't know about the blogger. You're also supposed to tag some other bloggers. I'll come up with five things, but I'm not tagging anybody else. Also, since I like to keep this blog focused on bikes, all five things involve bikes.

1) When I was a little kid I had these really cool grips on my bike that I thought were Tony the Tiger grips, but actually they were part of the Exxon "tiger in your tank" promotion. Somehow Exxon's marketing didn't sway me strongly and even though they made 4.5 million dollars every day of last year, very little of that money came from me. But I probably did buy some snacks at their gas stations.

2) When I was a kid I told one of my young chums that one day I'd ride my bicycle to California. He said "you can't bike to California, it's too far." I thought he was a dope and told him so. We were no longer chums after that.

3) In 1982 I took my last exams, got a degree in philosophy, skipped graduation and rode my bicycle from Minnesota to California in 21 days. It wasn't too far.

4) While sitting on the beach in Crescent City, California, I spent a good bit of time thinking about things I'd left undone in Minnesota. There was really only one thing that bugged me, but it bugged me quite a bit. I rode north and west, and ran out of money in Bend, Oregon. I went into a bike shop, hocked my bike for money for food and bus fare back to Minnesota.

5) Back in Minnesota, I got my old computer job back and finally screwed up my courage to ask out the pretty girl who worked as a receptionist for the accountants down the hall. Not even talking to her was the one thing that had really bugged me. I left a poem on her desk and then introduced myself and asked her out. Remarkably, she said yes. Her name is Christine and she's the love of my life. She's even more beautiful now than she was in 1982 (and she was quite a babe back then). My wife is still camera shy but she let me take a picture of her while we were having tea this week.

And BTW, I did earn enough money to get my bike out of hock.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Frost and Moonlight

What can I tell you about today? I can tell you that I leave a warm home, a warm bed and step into pre-dawn world that is black and silver. The light from a low full moon shines on a million minute reflections, fog that has frozen into frost. I do not think of myself as a thing separate from my bicycle, my tires crunch with carbide certainty and I roll on dark familiar streets. I know these shadows, I know these street lights. My LEDs, my cat's eyes, cast their own mimicries of moonlight. Bits of gravel crunch up in my fenders, light crystals swirl and eddy in the breezes from each passing car.

Most of my fellow travelers are more confined, comforted in mobile rooms where they squint at a world moving quickly in their headlight beams. Perhaps their radios are telling them the news, their coffee cups urging them toward wakefulness.

I am looking beyond my lights, a trick that has become a habit. A wise man taught me that to see in the dark, you must look in the dark. He learned this in London, in the war, and taught me this on a still and peaceful night, much like this one, many years later and several years ago.

But this night is becoming dawn, the sky holding not only moonlight but the promise of an eastern glow. But for these last moments, it is still the cold light, the silver and the gray. Bits of black resolve in the sky, a murder of crows crossing from the foothills, to the island, to the city. Like me, they are commuters, their daily trek a ritual that is never quite routine.

Sometimes the moon is full and the night is clear and I get to see that each patch of frost is more precious than all the diamonds DeBeers wishes everyone would buy. Sometimes I remember to marvel as I glide with my wheels rolling on concrete that floats on water as I watch a seagull drift without effort six feet to my starboard. I roll on miracles of ingenuity, bridges and tunnels and I come so close to flying with some bits of metal and rubber and air imprisoned in Dunlop's amazing donuts.

The moon that set behind the city, behind the Olympic mountains in the morning rose again this evening. The warmth of the day is leaving as I leave for home and the light again is getting low. The city streets are familiar, the rhythm of red and green and four-way stops, the tide of traffic, the workday workers working their ways away.

I meet my friend Matt at a traffic light and we chat and ride our way up the hill. Convivial conversation and chance meetings are benefits of a life awheel and we quickly bring each other up to speed on schemes for future adventures. At the bridge Matt heads north and I head east.

The day never warmed much above freezing and fog frost still lies in the shadowed places. The moon is vast and white and too photogenic for me to photograph. It is the moon that would make Basho compose poetry, make Lon Chaney into a beast and make sane men wonder if lunatics know something that the rest of us only suspect.

I roll through air that is cold enough to make every sound clear. There is a tick in my right pedal, keys clink in my pocket, my bell rings itself on the rough pavement of the Bellevue Slough. The freeway drones like our entire planet has tinnitus and I wonder if it is good or bad that I can manage to tune all this out almost all the time.

As I climb the edge of Cougar Mountain, a poetic name left over from a wilder time, the moonlight and the frost are all I see. It is a night without darkness, the moonlight is everywhere.

If I were standing I suppose it would be cold, but I am rolling and layered in wool and nylon and I know just how fast to go to be warm enough.

My home lies in a moonlit valley and it is time now to be home, with a cup of hot tea. And maybe a grease gun. There is a tick in my right pedal.

The Real Reason You're Broke

I try not to be one of those "Cars Suck!" holier-than-thou guys. Lots of my friends have cars and if one of my buddies is lying bleeding in a ditch I'm all in favor of 911 calls, ambulances burning fossil fuels, medi-vac choppers or whatever. But years ago Christine and I sat down, did the math and looked at what we were spending on automobiles. We decided that we'd try living without owning those machines. And that has worked out well for us for the past 20 years. We use our feet, bicycles and mass transit to get around.

My friend Bob Bryant forward me a link to this article from MSN called "The Real Reason You're Broke" by Liz Pulliam Weston. You can read it here:

This article does a very nice job at looking at the costs of car ownership. It doesn't say "cars suck!" but it does present some real food for thought.