Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Nitty Gritty

After mostly avoiding driving in the snow for the past couple of weeks, I was happy to see snow in the parking lot at Red Hook, where I could possibly do 360s without hitting anything. Most Sundays that would be a difficult task, as not only was there usually no snow, but the lot was normally filled with cars brimming with brightly colored cyclists and their steeds. This Sunday was reserved for the desperate, including David, Steve, Kole, Michael, Pete and me. Orin showed up with a dog which didn't look too good for riding on but he (Orin, not the dog) proved his worth when he loaned Pete a wheel that he'd forgotten at home.

The decision was made to go to Tully's and hide out until guilt got us on our bikes. No, that's not the reason, I can hear David saying, it's to wait for the rain to let up. Either way, we zipped around the corner to the fireplace at Tully's and hung out for about an hour. At the point at which we reached critical mass, we all got up and went back to Red Hook to set off again on a different conveyance: our bikes. Well, that's not totally true. Kole, known for riding everywhere, even to Red Hook from Seattle that morning, had ridden his bike to and fro Tully's. I rode to the fireplace, as well, as a show of how desperate I was to ride.

Before we set off on the actual ride that would take us south to Redmond and around Lake Sammamish, I showed them my tiara. It was my way of saying, hey, remember me, I'm a Princess, a Laugher Princess and I do not want to be blown out the back of a bunch of Rabbits. We set off into a drizzle and in not too long, David flatted and we stopped to wait for him to fix it. While we were standing around, the conversation turned from bearings to shifters to tires to hubs. I guess that's what a bunch of guys talk about and I wondered what the female equivalent would be- baselayers, socks, shorts, gloves, helmets? Partly because of this thought and because I realized I was riding with guys with beards (Pete has just a mustache, does that count as half?), I burst out laughing. I had been cautioned by Bill to beware the guys with beards but now here I was with nearly five of them in conditions that were less than ideal.

Once we started rolling again, Michael asked what pace I would like to ride so they wouldn't drop me. I hadn't been riding at all for a while and didn't have a quick answer so he came up with 17 and I agreed to it. I think we all need to re-calibrate our speedometers so they are synchronized to the same speed. According to mine, we were going 18 or 19 most of the time. Buy, hey, what's a couple of miles an hour among friends? Everyone was staying together for the most part so I figured they were already making a concession for me so I just went along for the ride, drafting as close as I could to whomever was in front of me (except for Steve, who had cool wooden fenders but no flaps-he created his own rain shower behind him). And this was an experienced group of riders so I didn't have to worry about squirrels or constant slowing and speeding up or other irregular movements that are common in some groups. But I'm glad I wasn't drafting David when he went on his off-road expedition around garbage cans and through the snow. He stayed up and rejoined the group, barely shaken.

And now for the nitty gritty. Well, it was mostly gritty, grit from sanded roads, grit from dirt, grit from who-knows-what. It was coming up from the wheels, running through the brakes, traveling the downtube to the bottom bracket and chainrings to the chain and into the derailleur. Yup, that about covers it; it was covering or filling spaces over the entire bicycle, to say nothing of what our shoecovers or front of our tights looked like. There was far less snow on the route than we had anticipated but, in its place, was sand and gravel, potholes and cracks.

We made it back to Red Hook and our cars (except for Kole, who was riding home) and we all decided to just dump the bikes in our cars and deal with the grit later. Beer was more important anyway- must replenish spent carbs after 38 miles. It was great to be back riding on the roads, in the elements and drinking post-ride. To quote Pete, all is right with the world again.

To make up for a lack of photos, here's a Dave Matthews video of Proudest Monkey. He sings, "car horns, corners and the gritty". 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Very White Christmas

I managed to make my way up most of the hill to Marie's house. After all, I was driving a Subaru and following her in the same car, different color. When my wheels started to spin, I backed up into her neighbor's meticulously shoveled driveway and headed downhill to park. This was to be quite a portent for the next 24 hours.

We spent a lovely evening drinking wine (this is Marie's house), eating food, including the infamous fish soup, a Czech tradition, and opening gifts. Marie's son, Ashton, was dressed in all manner of fashion: plaid pajama bottoms, t-shirt and yellow-tinted aviator glasses and the gifts he received only added to that worldly menagerie: a (manly) paisley pashmina scarf, a blanket with peace, love and hippiness and some lumps of coal. Marie's friend Steve, known as the man who was fired from his wrapping job, presented his gifts either completely unwrapped or in a plastic bag: a book for Ashton and African jewelry for us. Marie presented me with the proper stemware for drinking red wine and I passed to her a gift from the "Goddess of Wool"- armwarmers. 

Since it was "only" 11pm at that time, we headed on up to the neighbors' house for dessert and games. Baldo, the Doberman, bounded up to us at the door with a sniff to each person's crotch and Michelle and Joe treated us to pumpkin pie, while their daughter, Sabina, drew us into a hilarious game that took us late into the night, laughing and drinking more wine.

In the morning, xmas day, it was still very white out, with more than a foot of snow on the ground, and more snow began to fall. After breakfast, we felt a need to be productive so we went out to free Marie's car from its precarious spot in the driveway. The shovel came from the back of my car and is the variety that comes apart and can be carried in a backpack, while still being very effective. If I am ever buried in an avalanche, I hope Marie is along with that shovel. That woman can dig! She freed her car and drove down to the bottom of the hill, tires looking like they were swimming, to park until everything melted. Shortly thereafter, her friend Steve departed and we heard a car alarm go off. Worried that he might be having a problem, we went down to help him out. From the top of the hill, we called out to him that we'd be there in a moment. 

I had a bit of deja vu: it was just this past summer when there was a similar situation on a bike ride near Mt Rainier and a motorcyclist went off the road. He was told help was on the way and who should show up to help but me, Marie and Erika, later known as "Too Tall, Too Small and the Princess". This time, however, the Princess was nowhere to be found (lost again?) but at least we had a shovel. Marie did a little digging and I pushed and suddenly, the car was freed. 
We retreated back to the warmth of the house and sipped tea and nibbled on cookies. A short time later, Marie noticed an emergency vehicle who was trying to get up the hill and was struggling to get turned around. We looked at each other and knew exactly what we had to do: she grabbed the shovel and I went to get my camera. I promised the firefighter that the photos wouldn't be all over the internet and he was grateful. But I didn't mention this blog. Marie was to the rescue again, as she brought down some kitty litter and the fireman was off, ego only slightly bruised.

The snow was letting up a bit and it was time to go out and play. We put on some layers and joined up with the neighbors, setting off on foot up the hill. Among us, we had 4 types of sliding-in-snow devices and we headed toward Lewis Park to their open slopes. On the way, 
you guessed it, we stopped
to push a car out of the snow, then went merrily on our way. We took some roads but mostly trails, as Bellevue has lots of greenspace that has been preserved while the houses and subdivisions were being built. At the park, we all utilized the many different kinds of sliding mechanisms and even found another: a sheet of cardboard box covered with packing tape that we dubbed the "Ghetto Sled". Whatever works.

Exhausted from too much fun and dragging ourselves up the hill many times over, we headed back, primarily on the trails system. If I had been blindfolded and dropped there, I might have thought I was on the Commonwealth Basin trail at Snoqualmie Pass. There was that much snow!
Back at Marie's, the snow had stopped falling, the air was a little warmer and I decided to make my escape, though I knew that meant I would miss out on another feast, especially since Marie received a gift of a cookbook from Michelle. But who knew when it would really stop snowing at Marie's house so I prepared to leave. She walked me out to my car and, fittingly, I became the fifth car she helped push out of the snow that day.

For more photos of Winter Storm 2008, click here for the gallery.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice!

Seattle has morphed into the city I've always wanted to live in this past week. We already had the friendly atmosphere and the great food but now we have an incredible climate change...snow! In the 20 years I've lived here, this is the first time I remember it being cold and snowy for more than 5 days in a row. I can have a green tea latte down the street at Chocolati, then head down to Green Lake for a lap of skate skiing and hop a bus to work, catching lunch at Tom Douglas' pizza place, Serious Pie.

All this just in time for the Winter Solstice, which happens to coincide with the start of Hanukah this year. What a great gift! 

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Santa Claus Convention, NYC

The following photo montage is a good illustration of what makes New York such a great city. They have heart, sense of humor and  a sense of unity. Enjoy these photos and narration from a New York Times photographer, Bill Cunningham.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Around the World on One Pair of Underwear

The saying goes that everyone's got a book in them and I agree. Each person's unique perspective on their set of circumstances and experiences can make for an interesting read. Sometimes, it's one experience in particular that someone writes about and, along those lines, is how I came up with a possible title of my book-to-be.
From Whirled Traveler

My commuter bike, the Surly, was working seamlessly, shifting with ease and rolling without much resistance and, as I was rounding the southwest corner of the Woodland Park Zoo, I thought how I would love to just keep on riding, extending this feeling of simplicity. I thought back to a ride I had done a year or so earlier with a friend who does long distance riding (randonneuring) and how I remarked at the 40-mile point that I felt like I could just keep riding all day and she replied, "Now, you're speaking my language!".

What if I did just keep riding all day and all week and month, etc. Where could that take me? I certainly wasn't taking much with me, as I had packed my one pannier with the day's food and clothing for work. Yes, just one pair of underwear. And, unlike most days, I just happened to have my debit card along because I was going to buy something downtown that I needed for the office. I graduated from an Outward Bound course many years ago and, on the eve before our 3-day solos, we were told that the less we took with us, the more we'd bring back. Based on that premise, I was going to need another pannier, a rack pack and a trailer for all I would bring back (metaphorically speaking, of course).

Then, my so-called good sense kicked in and I remembered that I was lucky to have a job and needed to keep it in order to keep my home and to save for a rainy day and maybe even retirement. But isn't retirement just another word for "the bike tour you wanted to take your whole life?"

With the feeling of responsibility and planning and enjoying my life not just in the present, but years from now when, hopefully, I can still enjoy it, I went to work. But I was left wondering about wandering...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oregon Wine Country Populaire

The closest I hope to get to Randonneuring

My former partner-in-crime from the Ride of Silence, Duane Wright, referred to this ride with the OR Randonneurs as the Notsovery Populaire,
owing to the fact that there weren't hordes of people roving around the wine country, getting sloshed and weaving around. You can get that at Red Hook on any given Sunday. No, this was a small ride with dedicated cyclists wearing wool and carrying pencils and brevet cards, hoping to get in a nice scenic ride. The Seattle-Redmond group consisted of three riders on singles: Bill, Sylvia and me and one tandem of Greg and Ruth Sneed (400lbs worth, as Greg kept reminding us while dropping back on hills). It made for an exciting group: up the hills we would go, Bill and I fighting for the polka dot jersey, then spinning down the other side until the tandem came by and I'd jump on their wheel and off we'd go to the next roller. But I'm getting ahead of myself; I wanted to mention a great comment that was shared from the group to a passing driver. The entire Populaire populous was in the bike lane heading out of Forest Grove when a car rolled up, horn honking. A rider exclaimed to the driver, matter-of-factly, "If you keep this up, 
you're going to give yourself a heart attack". I could tell that these riders were people who had seen it all, ridden there, done that ride and had a few words of wisdom to share with rider and car, alike.

We rolled into the hamlet of Cherry Grove to find the first of the controls, where we would have to answer a question, writing with the aforementioned pencil; I had hoped it wasn't a tough question as I have trouble paying attention, especially while riding. "What time is Sunday school?" We were standing outside a church so I could see that I was going to ace this exam, as the sign read "Sunday school 9:45". Not even Evergreen was this easy.

We continued on, through flats and over lots of fun rollers, alongside creeks, beside vineyards and through towns, stopping only to gather ourselves together or to stuff ourselves with cheap Mexican fare. After the stuffing bit in Lafayette, we were headed north with only 25 miles to go. Bill exclaimed that he had been on that particular road before, only it had been at night, in the dark, at the end of a 300K (that's 187 miles, people!) and he was surprised at how beautiful it was now that it was light out. I imagined riding blindfolded, as it was an area without streetlights or light from nearby houses. Just follow the flashing rear lights ahead of you, blinkety, blink, into the night.

Not much later, we passed the Trappist Abbey where they were rumored to make a brandy-soaked fruitcake. While I wanted to indulge in the sweets, I didn't want to make my jersey sag under its weight so I noted its location so I could return by car the next day. After a handful of turns and a slippery-when-wet bridge, we returned to Forest Grove and the McMenamins Grand Lodge, ready to begin the most popular segment of the populaire, dinner and drinks.
See approximate ride route here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

COGS President's Ride

The parking lot began to fill up with familiar faces: Bill L, the Big Guy, Secret Weapon, the Italian Job, Girl Who Rides with Dog (in car) and a bunch of new faces, too. More and more cars arrived and the bikes piled 30 deep and I read later that, due to all the high-visibility yellow concentrated into a small area, that the space shuttle picked us up on one of their cameras. A lot of people showed up to usher in the first ride of COGS and their new President, um, me(!)

After a little speech of a few words of some thanks and goshes, we were off, heading north toward Martha Lake, without Martha. It just didn't seem right but she had called and said she was running late and so I left a cue sheet for her on my car. The regular-sized-people on little bikes were out in front and, I tell you, I've never felt more out of place. I was on a huge bike and riding next to me was the Big Guy.

Soon, we got into the rhythm of dropping people at corners (no, not to hitch a ride home, though there was some of that later) to direct the group. The Italian Job (Mario) and Steve volunteered frequently so that they could get their heartrates up by having to chase and re-join the group again after the sweep passed by. This ride had been developed with two types of people in mind: those who didn't shift through their gears and those who had sore backs; I knew we would be ok with a little climbing, especially after a caffeinated break. As we descended from Interurban Blvd to Broadway, we started to see the Laughers, my regular ride buddies, who were probably coming back from Snohomish with full bellies, uphill, breathing hard.
We turned south on Broadway and kept riding south, on (what I thought was) the often-travelled route until we suddenly reached the gas station at Woodinville-Duvall Rd. It turns out that the cue sheet says "R to Golf Course Rd" but it is not called that, it's really 240th St or some such ridiculously high number. The gas station was a better place to re-group anyway, but where is Bill and Adrienne? I just caught the last ring of my phone and saw it was Bill who had called. I left a message on his phone where we were going and we'd see him later. We zoomed down the hill, made the turn and cruised through downtown Woodinville, window shopping along the way. We lost Mark P to the trail, an automatic reaction, I guess, while we continued to Riverside Drive and back to Logboom on the trail.

Thank-yous were said, nice to see you, great, yes, it was. See you next time. OK, everyone is gone, where is Bill and Adrienne? After some phone tag, it was discovered that they had been led astray and were between Woodinville and Redmond on Avondale and Adrienne had a flat and needed a pickup. Mark P and I, in separate cars (he's her close friend; I felt leader responsibility) zoomed over to her like the calvary and scooped her up. Actually, I scooped her and her bike, while Mark went to look for Bill. At least Adrienne had Bill's car keys but, after about 10 minutes back at Logboom, Bill showed up, then Mark after him. It was all just a good excuse to go out for dinner and "an adult beverage".

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Return to the Mountains

After two months away from the mountains while I rested up and healed my mystery injury to my foot and lower leg, I made a return today with friends and fellow hikers. I led a Mountaineers hike to Heather Lake, off the Mountain Loop Hwy, just 4 miles round-trip, but a good hike for my fall trail debut.

I was accompanied by Mark, my constant friend and wannabe hiker, Bill, the Laugher leader of Goosebumps who hasn't hiked in quite a while but was willing to give it a shot and 2 women from Marysville who recently joined the club and have been getting out regularly. We started up the trail with Mark leading and talking with Bill about all things photography and moved at a consistent, steady pace but we all warmed up regardless and soon took off layers. The day was starting to look really good, much better than predicted and there was blue sky above.

Somewhere along the 2 miles to the lake, the two gals, Amy and DaNielle got ahead of us and moved on while Mark, Bill and I stopped for photos and to breathe. Well, I'm assuming they were breathing...extra, I mean. When we arrived at the lake, it looked like Amy and DaNielle had already eaten lunch but they were polite and didn't get too nervous when we got our cameras and extra lenses out and shot everything from all angles. And then we ate and talked about grandparents and liverwurst and horse- and dog-meat. And then we stopped eating.

There was a trail that went around the lake which gives another perspective and better lighting to the scenery but it ends abruptly in avalanche debris so we took our photos and headed back down the trail. The trail was mainly wet (it's November) and a little muddy but no one took any falls and my ankle seemed pretty stable so I am encouraged to do more hikes. It's great to be back!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Church of the Skinny Tires

Worship services this morning began at 10am, a little later than normal to adjust to personal preferences. Despite the baptismal conditions in the parking lot that could not be prevented, services commenced. A half hour into the services, the rain jackets came off and the air became warm and a little muggy.

Don and Mimi strayed from the Path of Righteousness, and, in the end, could not be saved. We found them worshipping at the Graven Image of a Presta valve and uttering Blasphemy, and so cast them out. Besides, their tires weren't skinny enough.

Pastor Bill, leading the way, threw in all manner of twists and turns during his sermon so that the outcome would remain a mystery. But then, creation is always a mystery!

At the conclusion of services, the congregants gathered for the Host and the Sacraments, somewhat modified to suit the doctrine of the Church of Skinny Tired Bicycles.

(with thanks to Bill P who may not be going to Hell, after all)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Balancing the Tiara

I studied Erika's Princess demeanor, hoping to emulate her on today's ride. She instructed me on how to secure my tiara to my helmet: a few zip ties would help it stay in place between the air vents. Greg listened intently, as well, in case he needed to don his own version of princely headgear.

Once we allowed the Halloween Freak Show on Bikes to pass in front of us on the trail, we were off and headed up to the Woodinville-Duvall Road. For the first time in a long time, I was not near the front of the group, so I had no chance of going off the front on the climb. In fact, I was hanging (some might call it slumming) toward the back so that I could maintain the speed of those around me and not get myself into "climb" mode and see my tiara blow off my helmet in the first 5 miles. And, although I did get ahead of the Princess, it is my understanding that she warms up slowly.

At the regroup by the White Horse, we split into two groups and I stayed in the 2nd group. Off we went, up and down the rollers, "whee!". I noticed a shadow behind me and saw it was the Wobbler so I slowed down, pretending to adjust my tiara, and she passed on by and out of Wobbler danger range. A small group of us formed, led by another princess (apparently) who kept the pace quite tame, nearly all the way to Snohomish. With about 2 miles to go, her suitor took over and increased the pace, leaving me the choice of striving (not befitting of a princess) or gapping back. Needless to say, I gapped. Bob Miller joined in after leaving his station as corner and filled in the gap so I could have the proper escort into town.

We discussed our options for the next stretch of road to Monroe. Bill was taking the main group up into the hilly country above town for thrills and fall colors and I was taking my royal entourage via the valley floor. It was assumed the Princess would join us, seeking an easier route. Whether it was because she is directionally challenged, confused or just wanted to stretch out her now-warmed-up legs, we didn't know but she decided at the last minute to stay with Bill. My tiara now felt like it was a permanent fixture atop my helmet, like the jaguar on a Jag, only slower. The Old Snohomish-Monroe Road was gentle, quiet and had great views, allowing us (me, Marie, Sylvia & Kent) to just ride. Spinning solid circles, slipping silently from Snohomish.

We rolled into the Monroe Starbucks just a moment before the Rabbits and managed to get in line before they nibbled away all the goodies. Dottie, propelled into another (faster) dimension with Orin on the tandem, mentioned something about a Death Threat Hill they had summitted. Death Hill or no, the Rabbits didn't look too worse for wear, an amazing feat considering they were eschewing most of their gears as of late. Marie, Sylvia, Kent and I left some crumbs for the Laughers and continued on with our princessing. We did some nice pacelining on the road south and then it was time for the climb up Woodinville-Duvall from the other side. We stripped down, me being careful not to disrupt my tiara and headed up the hill. Once on the climb, I became the Ptitsa yet again, chasing the Young Gun up the hill. And again, I passed him and managed to grab the tiara with my right hand as it fell from my helmet, right after I upshifted. Great catch! Oh, I mean...Bad Princess!

For penitence, I had to take photos of my escorts and the fall colors. Later on, up past somewhere-or-other (is this lost sense of direction a side-effect of being a princess?), we all stopped on the road for more photo opps and to enjoy the midday sun. We rolled on, over hill and dale, or something like that, until the terrain started to look very familiar. Good thing Kent was there to guide us back.

Ouch! The pointy ends of my tiara were poking me in the head and, befitting for a princess and her escorts, we rolled down the hill and through the green light back to Red Hook.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fall Return to the Flock

After a 24-mile ride mid-week went ok and didn't leave me in pain, I decided to try a ride a little longer in length and test myself with a few hills. I first consulted the ride leader, Bill, as to how to go about cutting short his Fall Colors ride. We decided that I would ride with the group to the Snoqualmie Valley, then turn off at Fales Road while everyone else headed for Snohomish. Although that meant that I would miss out on good pie, I thought it would be a good way to re-introduce my legs to cycling and show myself a little restraint.

Forget about the restraint part. While I had imagined hanging in the back of the group, chatting with the sweep, Dottie, the reality was that I had given myself a lot of much-needed rest and I was raring to go. I easily ascended the first couple of hills, passing a few people in the process. It occurred to me that this behavior didn't match up with "taking it easy" but I couldn't seem to control myself. The group-riding mentality was taking over and I was striving, against my better judgement, to get toward the front of the pack.

Bill's plan for keeping the big group together included dropping a corner person at each turn. That person would wait for the last rider to go by, then re-join the group. I realized it was going to be my only opportunity for getting some photos so I stationed myself at a corner. It was like being reunited with friends I hadn't seen for a while; in my efforts to ride up front, I was missing all the folks in the middle and back. The downside to being a corner person, as I soon realized, was that it would take miles before I would re-join the main part of the group. Luckily, they stopped at the bottom of Woodinville-Duvall Road before heading north.

After being overly aggressive in the group again (couldn't help myself- there were guys around), I fell back some to rest before taking the princess turnoff at Fales Road. Both Sylvia and Marie were joining me, each with our own reasons for needing to cut the ride short. We had a nice ride back to Woodinville and made the discovery that gas was being sold for $2.89 per gallon at Paradise Lake Rd (and I was in dire need of the stuff).

Back at Red Hook, we said goodbye to Sylvia, then Marie and I headed for a local winery for a tasting. After sampling a nice variety of wines at the Novelty Hill/Januik winery, we returned to Red Hook just as the group was pulling in to the parking lot. In fact, I think my car was able to provide a draft for Bill for a moment. Marie and I spilled out of the car, laughing at our timing (and slight inebriation). We said our thanks and our goodbyes, then I headed for the cheap gas where I ran into my SBC friends on their 60-miler. We exchanged greetings and they clued me into the fact that the gas station across the road had gas for $2.79, ten cents cheaper. It was meant to be!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Benefits of Not Riding

While I don't recommend deliberately taking time off from cycling, there are times when it just happens. Injuries and mountain pursuits are usually my excuses. Here is a list of benefits that comes along with hanging up the bike for more than a couple of weeks:

Less Laundry: if you ride every day, that's 6 to 7 pairs of shorts and a couple of jerseys to add to the laundry bin each week and, if you're like me and take care of your shorts and synthetic (and wool) clothing, that's a lot of space on the drying rack. Those shorts can really take up a lot of space and increase the overall time the clothes take to dry.

Less time spent on wardrobe: When I ride to work, I have to dress first for my commute, then fold up the clothes I will change into at work. When I get to work, I change my clothes and the process gets reversed at the end of the day. That's a lot of decision-making on behalf of dressing for the weather, looking decent, etc. Plus, it takes up valuable time not only making those decisions but doing the actual clothing changes. My employer loses productive work time in the morning and afternoon when I am in the bathroom, changing clothes.

Less chance of getting chain goop on the carpet: I am pretty careful with my bikes and I keep my chain cleaned and lubed pretty regularly but chain gunk is sneaky. It drops on the floor of my storage area, migrates to my shoes (even though I leave the bike shoes in the bike room) and track onto the carpet. I have either learned to live with small black spots on the carpet or I have, in times of desperation, called in the experts to use their (hopefully) non-toxic cleaner on my off-white livingroom or bedroom floor. Don't ask me how it gets into the bedroom- I love my bikes, but...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Shooting Ducks

I'm still injured, but healing slowly and (sort-of) patiently so that I don't do something stupid and re-injure myself (like I already did once). In the meantime, I have other ways to keep myself entertained.

I finally got a D-SLR, after doing my research online and in print magazines. I bought the Sony A300 and got a 75-300mm lens for dirt cheap from their special promotion, which also included a special price on the body and kit lens. I bought it at Glazer's and was pleasantly surprised when I wasn't gouged for the accessories, though I did purchase a really awesome camera bag made by Think Tank which negated what I saved on the big lens. But, as I said, it is really awesome and worked out great today for a little test shooting at the WA Park Arboretum.

I packed the camera with kit lens, a water bottle (that would stay cold in the insulation), cell phone, snacks and other small items and set out for the bus. I'm also proud to say that this entire
 weekend has been car-free and I've been traveling either by bicycle or bus. I walked from 23rd Ave toward the Arboretum along a route that I had ridden in the other direction many times, yet had never really had a chance to really see the houses on the street. They were all very beautiful but too bad they were basically across the street from 520.
Once I made it to the Arboretum, I headed for the water, looking for some interesting scenery, so I got a bunch of photos of ducks. Some ducks are in shadow, some close-up, one in stopped action, but also some nice tree and water images. I switched modes from auto to shutter priority to aperture priority and also messed with the overall exposure, getting the feel for the camera. The SLR format's advantage is that you get more control and a choice of lenses. I don't know how I've lived without one for 8 years. 
I wandered around the park some and did a bunch of walking to make sure I still could (see earlier post), then headed back to the main street. Just as I was thinking about Switzerland, a bus appeared at the stop after only a couple of minutes.

Friday, September 26, 2008

On the injured list...

I guess I whirled a little too hard; I've got an ice pack on my foot and there will be no hiking or cycling for a little while until I recover.

I went to the WTA Hike-a-Thon party yesterday- they raised over $20,000 and will have a matching gift doubling that! I was happy to have contributed $824 with my sponsors; everyone was so generous, it blew me away. I was going for most miles hiked:115, but that award went to a woman who totalled 156 miles!

Get out and enjoy the mountains for me!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Summer's return to Rock Mountain

Welcome Back Summer! We've missed you. We've had to hike in rainy, cold and even snowy conditions in your absence. The berry bushes that missed out on your warming rays, yielding few fruits, are now able to at least wow hikers by turning a brilliant red in your sunshine.

The meadow we entered after a few miles in the forest was full of your radiance and made us want to run and sing in the morning light. We enjoyed the last of the flowers, mostly asters and fireweed, then gazed up at your clear 
blue sky where our summit stretched. The babbling brook was especially nice since there were no bugs to distract us from our enjoyment of you.

Summer, we were so happy to feel your light, cooling breezes as we switch-backed up and across the mountainside toward Nason Ridge that we didn't even moan and groan about the steepness of the trail. In fact, a few in the party were heard commenting on how well-graded the trail was. You had us under your spell.

And then there were the views- you came through for us in providing a haze- and cloud-free day where we could sit atop Rock Mountain and pick out peak after peak, stretching the limits of our memory and knowledge to identify mountains: Mt Daniel, Rainier, Hinman, Monte Cristo, Three-Fingered Jack, Sloan, Baker, Glacier and Bonanza. I don't want to bore you with more; I just want to thank you and hope you stick around a little longer.

I am sure you won't be bored with the rest of the photos

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Car-free Seattle?

It all started in Bogota, Columbia, surprisingly, in an event called Ciclovia, meaning "bike path" in Spanish. The streets are closed throughout the day and over 2 million people (30% of Bogota's population) partake in riding bikes, walking, enjoying movement classes and pretty much everything else that is done car-free. Check out the video: and watch other vids from other cities participating in car-free events. One other city is New York City, where the event has been quite successful.

These car-free events are not just meant to be for advocating bicycles as transportation; they also benefit the communities by building relationships between people and allow participants to experience their surroundings without the physical limitations of cars and without the constant concern for their safety due to traffic.

All that said, I attended the first of many car-free events in Seattle, this one at Alki Beach. When I say attended, I mean that I rode my bike there with friends, from my house (no gas expended to get to a car-free event). The ride between downtown Seattle and Alki is not a pleasant one, plainly put. The route is via Marginal Way and it is a street full of potholes, a rail crossing and busy traffic and then a trail that is disconnected and not safe for bikes. But once you actually reach Alki, the trail is flat and smooth and the biggest danger is strollers and rollerbladers.

We rode to the Alki Bakery for a snack and lingered while the event was setting up. I was hoping to do some people-watching and perhaps some schwag-gathering, as well, as I spied bike-related businesses setting up their tents. But when we walked our bikes over to the tents to get a feel for the event, we realized how few people were actually attending. In fact, most of the people we saw were those on bikes from Cascade Bike Club, who had planned some rides to coincide with the event.

Where were all the people frolicking in the streets? There were some but the area was not even as crowded as it would have been on any other Sunday. Could it be that a lot of the people who go to Alki travel there in a car and have no idea (or interest) in taking an alternate form of transportaion? After all, this area is not quite the densely populated metropolis that is NYC or Chicago or certainly Bogota. I guess that is not something that the (little) City of Seattle considered. But where were all the residents of Alki- did they sneak their cars out of their garages in the early morning so they could have the freedom to go wherever they pleased. I bet that many business owners in the area will be complaining to the Mayor over loss of revenue.

The local press is calling it an "experiment". Better luck next time, Seattle.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dutch Miller Gap Backpack


We spent the morning getting to Cle Elum and finding the perfect cup of espresso, hot chocolate and breakfast burrito plus playing a round of fetch with some dogs and then Brian, Teresa and I were ready to start our hike to Waptus Lake. We found a note on Irene's car that she and the rest of the group had already departed from the trailhead and we looked forward to meeting them on the trail (too bad they didn't leave breadcrumbs). This hike was to be my second to last in August and I only needed 13 more miles in the WTA hike-a-thon to make my goal of 100 miles for the month and, heading up the trail, my brain must have been making deals with my body. Brain: hey, body, I need you to hike 5 extra miles today so whaddya say we just skip that trail junction up ahead to Waptus and keep on going up Polallie Ridge? Body: ok, I'll keep my eyes on the boots in front of me and then you can help me come up with reasons to stay on the wrong trail. The deal was struck and it was one that would help me top out over my goal for the month but would also put our group of three hours behind in our meeting point with the rest of the party at the lake.

Six hours and 13 miles later, our welcoming committee of Irene met us at the Waptus River ford to guide us into camp. She had nearly given up on us but, at the last moment, heard our voices nearing. She led us into camp where dinner was already in full swing. A fire was burning, hot water was offered up and we were all welcomed by our leader, Kay (who had been doing trail work with WTA for the week) plus Don, Diana and Rick.

We could see Bears Breast Mountain from our breakfast spot at the lake and it looked like a good day to hike up to Lake Ivanhoe and Dutch Miller Gap to make camp. We set out at 9am and headed along the lake, stopping at the WTA camp so Teresa and Rick could wow us with their barbell-lifting techniques. 

Up higher and higher we climbed toward the clouds, getting sprinkled upon gently at first, more steadily later. Part of what kept us going were the views down to Lake Waptus and the promise of views to Mt Daniel and surrounding peaks. When we reached the ridge before Lake Ivanhoe, Irene noted that this was a place where it appeared to have rained for more than a few days as the trail was mucky
 and slick in places. She sounded like she had decided to descend, even before we saw the bridge conundrum. There was an old bridge across the creek that lead to the campsites that had long ago succumbed to the raging torrent (or age). It now formed a "V" into the water and, although it looked as though we could boulder-hop to the center of the creek, it looked as though we would be clawing, slipping and sliding our way up the other side up to the bank. At that moment, I was grateful that our trip was led by Kay, a well-traveled mountain woman but also a sensible one
 who looked out for the rest of her party. She decided to err on the side of caution and sent us all back down the mountain from where we'd come. Although she sensed we would be disappointed, I think I heard a collective sigh of relief as we realized we would be spared from the elements up at 5,000 feet which could have included snow and ice.
We headed back down with our full packs, retreating to Lake Waptus and to a campsite next to the one we'd been in the previous night. I think it was Rick who remarked that we had spent all day hiking with full packs and traveling 14 miles, just to move our camp 100 yards.
After yesterday's mega-hike, there was no rush to wake up or get organized to hike so we didn't make it out of camp until after 10am. Our destination was to be Spade Lake, on the ridge to the east of Waptus Lake. The map indicated that the trail would climb steeply without switchbacks to 5,200' and then traverse
 across, just below the ridge, to the lake. I imagined strolling along on the traverse, photographing the nearby mountains and the flowers at leisure. Maybe I would even be singing... Well, that wasn't exactly how it turned out. The trail was steep and climbed up and up, over logs, under logs, through brush and through boulder fields. After a period of serious climbing, it leveled out and we remarked how easy all that gain was. Don's altimeter reading of 4,400 must be wrong; we were so strong from having humped our full packs up and down a mountain yesterday.

Our optimism was broken by the fact that the trail suddenly descended, traversed, then climbed more (lather, rinse, repeat). We scrutinized the map for clues as to what exactly this trail had in store for us but the more we searched, the more it seemed like the trail was what the route should have been, not what it was in reality. There were some heart-breaking moments where we thought the lake was "just around the corner", only to find the steepest climb of the hike before us. The good news was that we were rising closer and closer to the mountains that had evaded our sight the day before. We could see Three Queens and Chikamin which loom above Spectacle Lake and the glacierless backside of Mts Daniel and Hinman. The lake finally came into view below us, meaning we would descend now and climb later when leaving, a mental game we would have to get past.
We entered a meadow of grasses, small ponds and granite and followed one of many trails toward a large rocky area where we could gaze up toward the mountains and down toward the lake. The lake reminded me of Spectacle Lake, with its inlets and carved rock that is so much fun to boulder on and explore around. We participated in a variety of activities while there: eating, napping, photographing, frolicking naked in the meadows and dreaming of warmer weather. Soon, it was time to depart. lest we get caught there in the cold, descending steep terrain with diminishing light.
We made it back to our camp without too much suffering and enough warmth for Diana and Rick to take a swim and with enough light for Don to start another one of his fabulous campfires.


We awoke to the coldest morning of the trip with the prospect of fording the creek before us. I thought I had a brilliant idea when I decided to keep on the previous day's socks to wear with my Tevas and to also wear my wool tights into the water. I shared my brilliance with the group but I could see they were either heartier than I or they had not spent the previous night trying not to freeze in their tents. Off everyone went, into the baptismal creek that would be the first step toward exiting the wilderness. 

We stopped a couple of times on the 8.5 mile hike out and it was nearly a contest to see who had budgeted their food to last until the parking lot. Some were coveting their bread and cheese while others seemed content to eat a couple of dried prunes or pieces of mango, convincing themselves that it was meeting their caloric needs for the day.

By the time we reached the parking lot, with the goal of lunching at The Brick in Roslyn, there was a lot of clothing changing, hair combing and pack rearranging to prepare us for our re-entry into civilization.

Thank you, Kay, for leading a great trip and for treating us all to a post-trip lunch.

For the complete photo album from this trip, please click here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Soggy Sauk Mountain

I know what you're thinking...yes, I was wearing orange on this hike, though I doubt there were any hunters up on Sauk Mtn today, 14 years old or not, though we did see a bunch of grouse. When I left the Colonial Creek Campground on Hwy 20 this morning, I was headed for home, having heard rain on my tent for the entire night. My compatriots and I met up at Cascadian Farms, outside Marblemount, where we enjoyed coffee, cookies and berries and noticed the clouds were starting to lift. Soon, we said goodbye to Frank but Becky convinced me that we should go to Sauk Mountain.

Another car arrived a few minutes behind us at the trailhead and I was sure it was some nut- who would be up here hiking on a day like this? It turns out it was another Mountaineer, Gita, and she was willing (seems crazy to say excited) to hike with us.

It was wet, it was cold, the wind was blowing hard. What a great day for a hike in the PNW in August! We did see beautiful flowers on the hike but no cameras dared to photograph them in this weather. Plus, I had photo'd the flowers at the Farm so I was set for the day. At the trail junction for the peak (nothing to see) and the lake (descend, then climb), we turned around but still managed to get in 3 miles, according to the map. Enjoy the beautiful flowers not taken on Sauk Mtn!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Panther Creek to 4th of July Pass

The previous weekend's climbing training at Marie's house came in handy on this hike. There was a beautiful new bridge across Panther Creek 3 miles in but it was 10 feet up, with no steps or even a ladder leading up to it. So Judy, Frank, Becky and I each climbed the rockpile and
 threw a leg over the deck and, umph!, were up and across the creek. With such a beautiful new bridge, we were optimistic about the rest of the trail's condition.

What a disappointment we had set ourselves up for; the next few miles weren't maintained and were in serious need of brushing...with a machete...while wearing protective clothing...and a bear bell. In addition, due to my blind optimism, I had taken the legs off of my pants, making them a fine target for the Devil's Club and Stinging Nettles we had to push through. I felt a tingly sensation, not unlike the tingly sensation I get while swimming in saltwater that I mistake as feeling so alive that I'm tingling, until I realize that I'm being stung by jellyfish. Only, in this forest, it's nettles and it hurts first, tingles later, as if my nervous system was in hyper-sensitive mode. The brush was just one of the problems; the tread was not flat and con
sistent, but rocky, slippery and rife with holes from where small bridges over creeks had rotted through. And lots of bear scat, we assumed from more than one bear. Bears don't react well when being snuck up on but maybe our cursing and whining was what kept them informed of our presence.

Finally, the last bit of brush was left behind and we climbed, incessantly it seemed, in forest, arriving to a  
vaguely flat area. When we saw a flat rock in the the sunshine, we headed for it, then looked at our maps and realized we were at the Pass. A couple of us took off our boots and socks and let our toes dry out and enjoy the sunshine.

From the pass, it was a well-maintained trail that people actually traveled on and we saw a woman with her little dog whom I recognized from the campground. The final 2-mile stretch to the campground was on a soft, groomed, luxurious trail along Thunder Creek.