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.