Thursday, October 15, 2015

Take one grandkid, add a ropes course, some mountains and a lake...

My first grandson turned 9 this year....but I was in Hawaii riding my bike up a volcano when it happened.
So, in an effort to make amends for my missing this very special occasion (and my inability to manage my calendar) I told him we'd head to Tahoe for a "boy's weekend".

I picked him up from school on Friday and after gassing up the car and stocking up on skittles, sour patch kids and vitamin water, we got on the road.....with a hundred bazillion other people trying to get out of the bay area. Eventually (5 hours) we arrived in Tahoe City at my sister's house to begin our weekend.

Saturday morning dawned clear and warm and after breakfast (and coffee) Maureen, the little guy and I headed over to the ropes course at Granlibakken where they got him situated, harnessed, trained and ready to go....I wasn't sure how this was all going to play out. I've seen him sometime respond to new things fearfully and at other times with reckless abandon.

I'm never sure what triggers which it that some days he's confident and others he's not? Is it how I present the different events to him? Or do some things just scare him and others do not?
I'm not sure.  Last year for instance I took him skiing. In the morning, before his group lesson he and I went up the lift and started coming down. Immediately, there were words like "I can't, it's scary, what if...." Another time I took him on a bike ride with some pretty decent uphills and downhills and he went at it with no fear and a devil may care attitude....

Not sure which version of the kid I would get and knowing that Maureen had paid good money for him to do this, I went to great lengths to emphasize the fun and minimize the risk....but when I saw how high up the ropes were, and how fearful a couple of the other kids were, I planned for the worst. As I, in my head, began making backup plans and trying to come up with good arguments about how not scary this was, he clipped his harness to the first obstacle and was 20 feet off the ground before I knew what was going on. Ok, so that answers that question....

For the next 2 hours, he climbed, ran, walked, and zip-lined his way around the property trying new variations and ever more death defying ways to complete each one point the instructor told him to try to do the zip-line upside down and he spent the entire ride down the line trying to flip himself head over heals....gutsy, crazy, kid.

After the ropes course, we ate the lunch we had packed, drove down the road and parked to begin our next adventure. We would ride our bikes down the bike path to Squaw Valley and back. A 10 mile ride on the bike path is no big deal for anyone that rides, but for a 9 year old on a 20" bmx bike, it's a pretty big accomplishment. Of course, as you'd expect, there was a stop at the River Ranch bar for a root beer and some play time in the river to break things up.....we are on vacation after all.
Maureen had left us at the ropes course to go play in a tennis tournament she had previously committed to so we got back to the house before she did and relaxed for a bit watching football with my brother in law. It wasn't long before she got home though and she wanted to take Caleb to the tennis courts for a lesson. Wait, you want me to lay on the couch and watch football while you continue to wear out my grandson....OK!

After the lesson, we had a nice dinner and with Caleb being completely thrashed and worn out, we called it a day...more adventures were in store for Sunday.
Sunday we woke to another perfect summer day in Tahoe (unfortunately it's October and we need rain) it was sunny with blue skies and warm temperatures. Today, my friend Min was running the Lake Tahoe marathon which was to be her last marathon in celebration of her 50th birthday. (I've never seen the need to run my first marathon so needing to close the loop and run my last has never happened)

Her husband Chris dropped her off at the start then came and met up with Caleb and I. The plan was to drive to south shore where the finish line was, unload our bikes and ride backwards till we met up with her.

Chris though, had a surprise for Caleb. He had brought his kayak so we stopped at Sand Harbor and he got to go kayaking, play in the water and catch crawdads before we continued on to south shore.

After finding the finish line we unloaded our bikes and began to ride the route backwards. We had gone back to mile 22 before we saw her....the really crazy part is that she was still smiling. We decided to ride back towards the finish and intercept her along the way but somehow we got behind her when we thought we were in front of her so when we finally hooked up again, she had already finished.
After lunch at a local brewery, where Caleb had a rootbeer, we got on the road and headed down the hill and back to reality. Pretty sure he lasted at least 10 minutes before he crashed out and slept most of the way home.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Not Riding In Tahoe....

I was in Tahoe this past weekend with my friend Diane and I purposely did not bring my bike.....I know...weird....right?
I was actually up there to hike...yes, I said it. I went to the mountains with the purpose of hiking and not biking.....(there would still be beer involved if that's any consolation)

The hike we were planning was from Fallen Leaf Lake to the top of Mt Tallac and to be completely honest, I was a little worried about it. I'm not much of a hiker and although I have been riding regularly for the past few months and I walk a ton at work, the act of hiking 6 miles up a mountain had me a bit freaked out. I really don't like doing stuff I'm not good at which causes me anxiety and stress.....Dumb right? Something that should be fun being stressful....just the way I'm wired....

We started fairly early and as we got ready in the parking lot to begin, I took some solace in the fact that I at least looked the part of a hiker. (there were other "hikers" there so I had a pretty good frame of reference)
I had on boots that were made for hiking, good wool socks, actual hiking poles and a camelbak stuffed with food and water. As I always say on the bike, if you're not fast, you should at least look the part and it appears that the mantra translates to hiking as well.

As we left the parking area, the trail meanders along for a ways allowing my legs (and lungs) to warm up. It wasn't long though, before the trail went up and it pretty much continued going up for the next 6 miles. And, as you can probably imagine, when you go up for 6 miles, you gain this case almost 3500ft of elevation.

The trail was in good condition and well marked and provided amazing views along the way. If I hadn't been suffering from oxygen deprivation, I might even have enjoyed those views....
In all seriousness though, it really is a beautiful hike.

As we were nearing what I had been promised was our rest stop, Gilmore Lake, we met a guy that exclaimed his joy at seeing us....turns out he was lost. Well, technically, he wasn't lost, he just didn't know how to get from where he was to where he was supposed to be meeting his brother. (Velma Lakes)
After a few minutes comparing his map with ours, and figuring out where he needed to go, he headed out and we made the last few steps to Lake Gilmore which is an amazingly beautiful lake.
(In this pic you can see how crystal clear the water is and that the moon is still out)

We rested, ate rice krispy treats and finished off the small thermos of coffee we had brought with us. I was enjoying the break and the scenery and was actually starting to think that maybe this hike wasn't so bad after all. We had done 4 miles, I was still vertical and surprisingly I felt good.....right up to the point where Diane said, now we start going up"....wait...what???? we've been going up for 4 miles already, what is she talking about????

Well, I found out soon enough. The last 2 miles from Lake Gilmore to the summit feels like its straight up.  It's funny that one of the websites I found describes it as an easy and steady 1300 ft climb.

I stopped a few times on the last section, just to take pictures of course, not because I was dying, and the views behind us were incredible.

When you reach the top, the last several hundred yards are a scramble around and over large loose boulders. Surprisingly, there were quite a few people up and there and we arrived to the final strains of someone singing happy birthday to one of their group.....turns out he was celebrating his 70th birthday with the hike.....yes, I felt lame and weak and like a baby for all the complaining that was going on in my head.

The views from the summit are amazing. To the northwest you see the entirety of the Tahoe valley, and back to the west you see the Desolation Wilderness, several other peaks and the myriad of sparkling blue lakes that dot the wilderness area.

We found a spot out of the wind, which was blowing cold and strong at the top, and ate the sandwiches and snacks that Diane had brought along for us. As good as a nap would have been, there wasn't a flat spot to be found and the wind was cold enough to motivate us to begin our descent.

You would assume that hiking down a mountain would be easier and faster than hiking up, but that wasn't the case. The steps, loose rock and my old knees kept our pace down and required constant attention to avoid falling. The hiking poles were a huge benefit and saved me from embarrassment and possible injury on more than one occasion.

The wind kept up and the weather had cooled to the point that we had our jackets on most of the way down and with the Aspen in full color, you could tell that Autumn had arrived in the Sierras.

As we finally got to the bottom and back to our car, we had yet another Autumn celebration to look forward to....we were headed to the Oktoberfest celebration being held over at Camp Richardson....brats and beer after a long hike....what could be better?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Lost most of the day....and loving it.

The last Saturday in's officially Autumn and the weather should be cooler but this past week has been warm....Right now, early on Saturday, it's nice and cool, but I can tell it's going to be warm later. The "experts" call this Indian Summer ...perfect weather for a ride is what I call it.

We started at the dam at Lexington Reservoir and headed out. Diane, yes, I have my very own tour guide, knows the route and although I've ridden some of the roads before, I have only a general idea of where we're headed and how we'll get there.....which is perfect, I have no place to be and all day to get there.

We start out riding around the reservoir and up Old Santa Cruz Hwy which is a great, low traffic road up through the's a perfect way for my legs to wake up and the morning coffee to kick in and do it's magic.

The next segment is down Summit Rd to Soquel San Jose Rd which is a little slice of bicycle nirvana. It's approximately 10 miles of smooth, fast downhill which at this time of the day has very little traffic. I'm sure as the day goes on, the traffic will increase, but for now it's bicycle heaven that is only interrupted by our decision to stop and regroup at Casalegno's Market. This is a cool old country market that is always good for fresh coffee and a cookie. Today though, we decided to pass on the treats and continue the downhill goodness in to Soquel.

From Soquel, we headed south through Aptos before heading back inland through Day Valley and in to Corralitos where we stopped for lunch. Day Valley is a nice, lightly traveled road. (although it's actually a climb and not a valley) It was at this point that I became officially lost and thankful for someone who actually knew where we were supposed to be headed.

Corralitos is a little 4 way intersection that is anchored on one side by the Corralitos Market and Sausage Company and on the other by a great little park with a covered picnic area. Evidently, the market is known for their fresh made smoked sausage which are served on Gayles Bakery hot dog rolls. I had the venison sausage and a side of fresh berry pie from the nearby Gizdich Ranch (if you've never been, this too should be on your must-visit list) Both the sausage and the pie pretty much rocked my world.

Once we had devoured our lunch, we remounted the bikes and began to make our way up Eureka Canyon for what was to be about a 12 mile climb. This eventually turns into Highland Rd and brings you back up to Summit Rd where we once again stopped, this time for drinks, at the Summit Grocery Store another cool little market.
From here it's a short grind up Summit Rd, which was much busier than it had been earlier that morning, and back to Old Santa Cruz Hwy. which provides a nice long, shaded, downhill back to the reservoir.

The last section back to the truck was probably the least fun. It's a rolling up and down (mostly up) with some short steep sections in the full sun. As we were coming up on 60 miles for the day, these really did a number on my legs...there may even have been some whining involved.  Eventually though, we made it back to the truck, piled in and headed out in search of cold, adult beverages...

Total for the day, 60 miles, 5900ft of climbing - mapmyride route

Friday, September 25, 2015

A bike, An Island and a Volcano....what could be better?

It seems like a lifetime ago that I've been motivated to sit down and put words on paper....(or computer in this case)
It's been a pretty challenging year since my life was turned upside down and yet I've managed to get through it. Mostly thanks to God, my girls and some very close friends.
But that's not what this blog is about. It's about riding and I've been doing a lot. Riding for me has given me purpose, kept me fit and most importantly, kept me somewhat sane....not that I've ever been too sane anyway.

Back around the holidays, a bunch of us got together for dinner and as usually happens, the beer and wine flowed freely and as also usually happens, the discussion turned to rides we had done and rides we wanted to do. One of our group mentioned riding up Haleakala as something he had done and just how tough it was. This of course led to the idea that we should plan a group trip to Maui with the goal of riding up the volcano....I mean after all, it's only 36 miles, how tough could it be? (this may have been the alcohol talking)
It was then and there decided that we would do this and we would begin planning and training immediately. (interesting that Chris, who started the discussion wanted no part in this upcoming adventure)

Long story short, the planning happened, 4 of us committed to doing the ride, and for some of the others, the training also began. For me....well not so much. I rode regularly, but not at the level I should have been for the upcoming ride.
What's the big deal you ask? Yes, I did say it's only 36 miles but I forgot to mention you ride from sea level to 10,000 ft in those 36 miles...add to this is rated as the 2nd most difficult climb on a bike in the US and you'll understand why I was having trouble sleeping.

There were some last minute calls back and forth to see if we were still going as Hurricane Ignacio as also supposed to be heading towards the islands. We decided, the heck with it and agreed we were still moving forward thereby sealing the name, Team Poor Judgement.

We landed on Saturday, got settled in to the house we rented (amazing btw) and, while Bob assembled his and Leticia's very cool travel bikes, I walked around the corner to Maui Cyclery  to pick up my rental bike. Wow, these guys are awesome. Great group of guys, that know their stuff and rent nice equipment. I ended up with a Carbon Orbea with disc brakes.

Sunday morning, we started out early (6:30am) with Leticia and I riding out in a light rain and Bob starting the driving in the van as sag support. (backstory, TPJ was supposed to include Keith and his wife Shelly and son Patrick, to do the sag, but he was still in CA trying to resolve bike issues - Bob and I decided to tag team so Leticia could do the whole ride)

The ride, even with the light and sometimes not so light rain, started out nice. It was warm, the climb was gentle, and the scenery was beautiful.

The climb continues like that for roughly the first third of the route. As a matter of fact it was a downright pleasant ride to that point.

 Eventually though, we hit the middle section and the road got steeper. The pretty, scenic route becomes a series of switchbacks that seem to never end. At this point you just plug a good song into the ipod and begin to grind away....trying to find a pace that keeps you moving but doesn't allow you to blow up.

Bob and I tag-teamed the drive. One of us would take the van, drive up a ways, unload our bike and ride back down to meet the others. We'd ride to the van and the other person would repeat the process. It allows everyone to ride and although you don't get all the miles, you get enough.

Eventually, we got to the official park entrance with sits right about 7000ft and the rain that hadn't been too bad, got serious...along with a pretty strong wind which had us blowing sideways so decided to call it for the day. (total for week - approx 24 miles/6000ft of climbing)

Monday, The three of us got up early again, drove to the 7000ft level and finished the ride to the top.  No, we hadn't done the 0-10,000ft that we set out to do, but we still felt a sense of accomplishment. (total for week 36 miles/10000ft)

Monday afternoon, we heard from Keith that he got his old bike running, had booked their flights and would be joining us Tuesday.

Tuesday we decided to mix things up a bit and decided to hike instead of riding. We hiked along a really cool river to a series of waterfalls. It was a very nice day, a beautiful hike and a nice change of pace.

Tuesday, Keith, Shelly and their son Patrick showed up so another assault on the mountain was put in motion. This time, Shelly and Patrick would sag while Bob, Leticia, Keith and I headed up the hill on the bikes.

Wednesday we started out with gorgeous weather, no rain, but crazy humidity....I was as wet from sweating as I had been a couple of days earlier from rain.

The ride went well and knowing how the climb played out helped quite a bit. At about 4000ft Keith started struggling with cramping issues and although we regularly stopped so he could stretch, he wasn't quitting. Eventually, with the help of at least 20 enduralytes to keep Keith from locking up, I once again found myself at the 7000ft entrance to the park.
Being of the, "been there, done that" mentality I wished Keith good luck and godspeed I turned around and headed downhill for a beer,

What I didn't realize was that the rain and clouds had come in behind us as we were climbing so the ride down was a little more treacherous than I had bargained for....thankfully, I had thrown my jacket in my pocket and the disc brakes on the bike did what they're supposed to do.
The clouds and rain tended to hover between 5-7000ft so once you get down the mountain a little way, things clear up and the ride becomes a fast, beautiful downhill roller coaster.

Turns out the Enduralytes kicked in and Keith recovered from his leg cramps to finish strong.
(total for week - approx 84 miles and 17000ft)

Friday morning we again got up early, (not sure why all my vacations leave me exhausted) and headed out to ride the Road to Hana. I had driven this road in a minivan, my wife and 2 kids a long time ago and remembered it as a full day of winding, twisting, car-sickness inducing hell. Funny how that's exactly what it was, but on a bike it became twisting, turning bicycle nirvana.

We started at 6:00 am to avoid traffic and at the half way point turned around. As we came back, the line of cars headed out reinforced our rare moment of good judgement. (total for week - approx 115 miles/21000ft)

Friday night I heard a rumor circulating among Team Poor Judgement that Leticia really wanted to do the bottom to top ride and was looking for someone to ride with....I, being weak minded and of poor judgement immediately chimed in with "I'm in"...

Saturday again found us on Baldwin Ave headed up...and up....and up. The weather was great, the views were amazing and we just had a really nice day on the bike making circles and heading upwards. Bob sagged for us and we took our time, stopping regularly to refuel, drink, take pictures, etc. Eventually we reached the top, made the final checkmark on this item on the bucket list and piled in the van for the ride down the hill and dinner. What an awesome week! (weekly total 187 miles and 31000 ft)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Checking out and not checking in...

Saturday, a day normally spent having coffee, doing chores and hopefully squeezing in a bike ride. Life was so structured before...well, just before.

This Saturday though, now that I live in the upside down world, things are different. I got up early, had coffee and a bowl of raisin bran to fuel the day, loaded up my bike and headed out. I don't need to tell anyone where I'm going or when I'll be back. I do as I please, when I please and how I please.....and it's weird not checking in with anyone.
I actually emailed the girls just so I feel like I'm still plugged in. (and just in case things go wrong and they have to come get me) It's all very strange but as I'm learning its my new normal.

I met my friend Lynn in Livermore and we rode out Mines Rd to the junction and back. It's about a 50 mile out and back with 4000ft of climbing and is a perfect ride for me as I continue my initiation into this weird place I now live. It's fairly tough, starting off with a long climb and it's lightly traveled which allows me to turn my thoughts inward.

My bike, always a trusty companion, has accepted its new role as full time therapist. It willingly accepts the abuse as I stand and hammer the pedals trying to drown out the thoughts in my head with the pounding of my heart and the loud ragged breath this type of effort produces.

Eventually, realizing there's no way I can keep burning matches at this rate for the entire day, I back off.  I sit, settle into what i hope is a nice smooth spin, letting my heart rate return to normal and dropping back so Lynn and I can chat as we climb.
We take it easy and talk for most of the ride out to the Junction where we sit in the sun and enjoy a gatorade while getting ready for the climb out. It's taken us about 2 hours to get to this point and I haven't fueled as well as I should have. Any nutrients from the raisin bran this morning are burned and gone and as I stood to make the last climb before the descent to the Junction I could feel the twinges of a cramp deep in my hamstring.

From the junction back to the top it's about 5 miles and by now the sun is out and it's pretty warm. Obviously not hot by Livermore standards, but I'm guessing it's almost 90 degrees with no shade and the heat coming off the road asphalt makes it feel much warmer.

As the climb begins both Lynn and I have gotten quiet and are focused on making smooth circles as we sit, sweat and focus on forward movement to the exclusion of all else. It's here that I want to be. Deep into the pain cave, all thoughts and focus directed only at moving my bike forward, thinking of absolutely nothing but making my legs turn and staring at the road ahead.

It's finally quiet now, both inside my head and outside in the empty canyons which surround me. The sound of skinny tires rolling on hot asphalt barely registering on a brain and a heart that has been too tortured and twisted for the past few weeks....this is the place I seek more and more frequently.  A place to hide out from the world...a place I can check out and escape.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Clicking in and checking out....

This is the end of week 3 living in the upside down world. It's all still pretty surreal. I find myself thinking of calling her or sending her a text which is what I normally did at least once per day...every day....for the last 32 years.

I've never been good at sitting still and that has only been exacerbated by the fact that now not only do I not want to sit still, I've been trying to avoid allowing my brain any downtime to sit and dwell. I know that's probably not healthy, and the "experts" all say it's better to let the emotions come and deal with them, but that's not how I'm wired. I stay busy...

One thing I've found that really seems to help is riding. Last Saturday a couple of us did a ride up Diablo to the junction, down the other side, through Concord, Walnut Creek and back to Danville. As we climbed Diablo, I was able to put the brain in neutral and focus on making my legs go around in circles.

It's amazingly therapeutic and as the road climbed I pushed harder and harder on the pedals forcing the pain out of my heart and into my lungs and quads. I focused even deeper pushing out the pain with each ragged breath and letting the tears flow, mixing with the sweat as it ran down my face.
Eventually, we reached the ranger station and as we stopped I could feel the flush leaving my legs as my heart rate settled and the endorphins began to flow into my system like a natural painkiller.

The downhill portion was another escape requiring total focus and balance. Tucking in to turns, avoiding the many bumps and potholes, the wind in my ears harmonizing with the worship music blaring through my ear buds allowing me to avoid any type of thought other than staying upright and on line.

Eventually we reached the canal path that takes us through town and back to Danville Rd where again, I was able to check out, make circles and take my brain offline. As the thoughts would begin to creep in I would push harder on the pedals trying to replace them with the pain and burning of my legs and several times I'd look up only to realize I had dropped the others at which point I'd have to sit up and soft pedal so we could regroup.

Later in the day as I reflected on the ride, I realized I was a less than ideal ride partner for the others since I was so focused on dealing with my own stuff, but that's the best part about riding with friends....they completely understand and don't mind.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Living in the upside down world...

There's no possible way this just happened....right? It must be a bad dream...I'm going to wake up and everything will be normal again.....right? Unfortunately, that's not the case.

So now, how do I move forward in this upside down world where everything I knew has changed so dramatically? Everything I worked for, every goal I had, every plan and dream has been flipped on it's head?

Things that once seemed so important now don't matter, plans and goals that were being worked on now seem trite, dreams that were meant for two suddenly seem empty and unimportant...what do we want has suddenly become what do I want? And to be honest.....I don't have a clue...

I've been told by everyone I talk to not to make any major decisions for a while and I get that. To be honest, making any decision right now is hard...nothing seems important and when I do make a decision, it changes fifteen times before I get there.

The world that once seemed solid and firm has been shaken and turned upside down....but as the psalmist said, The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

As we move forward as a family we'll cling to this. In a world where things shift and move and slip beneath our feet, we'll stand on this rock....and we'll cling to His promises...