Thursday, July 27, 2017

Cooler Than Me Bike Guy, Pt. 2

Day 9 - Sept. 27, 2016 - Monroe > Hagan-Stone Park

When I woke up the next morning, I found a giant bruise on the back of my thigh.  The bruise hadn't been there the day before and I hadn't bumped into anything recently, so it could only have been from a somnambular fight club or an overnight ghost assault, both of which are movies I would watch.  Other than that, I was feeling pretty good.  I'd iced the back of my ankle overnight, so even that was feeling pretty good.  I felt even better when I found out the continental breakfast included waffles.

Now, I am not really a big waffle guy, but there are two places I will always eat them.  Waffle House is the first, and really, I shouldn't go there ever, but I do, and I get a waffle, and I regret it every time.  The second, and the one I never regret, is at a self-service motel continental breakfast.  You know the ones.  The squeeze bottle of batter next to a big auto-timed waffle iron that needs to be pretreated with generic Pam?  It's so good, right?  I mean, it's not, but you know, it is.

Well rested and well fed, I hit the road ready for a big day.  I had close to a century ahead of me, but I felt like I could conquer.  I lost most of that feeling within ten minutes.  That's about how long it took for me to be dripping with sweat again.  The South is the worst.

After a few hours of tempting the heat exhaustion fates, I decided I'd earned an ice cream sandwich.  I found a nice convenience store and parked my bike along side the produce stand next door.  I was going through my handlebar bag, searching for my wallet, when I flicker of movement drew my gaze upward.  And what did I see perched a few feet above me, from a piece of outward jutting wood?  If you had guessed "doberman", you would have been close.  No, it was a spider approximately the size of a doberman.  Holy shit did I jump back.  The spider was so big that I didn't even take a picture of it for fear it would steal my phone.  You better believe I ran, almost dragging Tibor behind me.

Surviving that arachnid encountered made me feel even more deserving of an ice cream sandwich, so I pushed my bike over to the gas station and leaned it against the wall.  As I walked over to the convenience store door, a older gentleman looking up from pumping gas and asked where I was riding to.  I told him Philly, and then he proceeded to tell me about how he'd met a guy that had ridden over 10,000 miles a year or two prior.  Cool.  That guy again.

I got a longer story this time.  Apparently, over one winter, old gas pump guy met cooler than me bike guy as he was on his way west.  It was wintery and cold and CTMBG looked ill prepared for the ride ahead of him.  CTMBG was also unaware of the snowy climb ahead as well.  So OGPG took him in for the night to make sure he didn't freeze to death.  Weeks later, OGPG ended up getting a postcard from Mt. Rainier sent to him by CTMBG.  Some time after that, he received a postcard from Alaska.  CTMBG really was a lot CTM.  But I had an ice cream sandwich and at least he couldn't take that away from me.

On a side note, this was not my first tale of winter riders that seemed hellbent on dying on the road. Just last winter, a buddy of mine that works at a shop in South Philly met a guy that was headed to Texas while wearing clothes that were barely suitable for November, let alone winter-proper.  He was practically frozen when my buddy brought him to the shop and helped outfit him in proper winter wear that was on its way to Goodwill.  That cyclist was a very lucky guy.  People, do not rely on the kindness of strangers.  There are some strangers that don't have much kindness to share.

After that it was a long stretch of dead reptiles until I would reach Hagan-Stone Park Campground.  I saw a big, turquoise snake squished along the side of the road, as well as a bunch of little turtles.  I'd officially moved out of armadillo country.  I hadn't seen a squished one of those in days.  But while out of armadillo country, I thankfully was still in the heart of Pimento Cheese country.  Not much could have topped the homemade Pimento Cheese sandwich I ate for lunch at a bait shop/convenience store.  Way creamier than any brand name, gas station Pimento Cheese.

Not Squished

It was after dark when I finally reached the already-closed-for-the-evening campground.  Well, dark between lightning strikes.  All around me, lightning lit up the sky as a storm thundered its way towards me.  I'd ridden all day without bad weather, and if I kept a good pace while setting up camp, I could be in bed before it reached me.  

Hagan-Stone, while mostly for RVs, had a nice tent section winding through the woods.  For the first time in a few parks, I'd be camping under a bit of cover, away from the whirring sound of generators and safe from the gusting winds whipping the tops of the tall trees that surrounded me.  Those tall trees also provided cover to the deer living in the woods, and I almost collided with a bambi as I sped through that nearly empty campground trying to reach camp before the storm reached me.  That wouldn't have been fun for either one of us.

As I reached camp, the race was on.  I pitched my tent and stowed my gear in record time, drops of rain just starting to reach me through the leafy canopy.  After slamming down dinner, I ran up to the showers.  Once I reached the showers, the sky opened up and it poured.  I'd just made it.  That night I slept in my dry tent with an ice pack on my ankle, listening to the rain beating on my tent and hoping all the while that the storm would take the summer heat out with it on its way East.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Touring Tip: Setting up Camp

I have set up camp so many times that I mostly do it on autopilot at this point.  Muscle memory is a good thing to have when wrapping up a twelve hour day of riding.  Thinking isn't always an option when you're an exhausted, dehydrated, electrolyte depleted mess.

Bertha Creek Campground in the Chugach National Forest

The thing with muscle memory, though, is that it takes a lot of repetition to really make your muscles remember.  Muscles are pretty dumb like that.  So for those of you who don't have that tour camping muscle memory yet, here's a list of the things I do once I reach camp.  Feel free to use and modify it to build your own routine, or at the very least, to allow yourself to think less after a hard day:

  1. Find Campsite - I usually camp near showers because I don't like long walks after long rides.  If you're a light sleeper, your preference may be to camp as far from other people as possible.  Whatever the case may be, don't just grab the first site you see.  Put at least a tiny bit of thought into it as not all sites were created equal.

  2. Pitch Tent ASAP - Don't linger on this one.  As soon as you get to camp, set up your tent.  Aside from removing any question about site ownership, it gives you a place to put the stuff you're about to unload from your bike.

  3. Set up the Inside of the Tent - While you still have tent pitch momentum, inflate your bedroll and lay out your sleeping bag.  You'll be happy they're already arranged when you get back relaxed from a hot shower.

  4. Start Cooking - Start prepping dinner.  Water takes a while to boil and you can do other things while waiting.

  5. Prep for Shower - Get out your toiletries and bed clothes.  This way you can head straight to the showers after you eat.

  6. Put Bags in Tent/Bear Box - Your meal kit and toiletries are out, so put the rest of your stuff in the tent.  You'll have to do it eventually, may as well do it now.  If you're in bear country, all scented items should go in a nearby bear box.

  7. Eat/Clean Up - At most campgrounds, this is pretty straight forward.  But again, if you're in bear country, any scented non-garbage should go in the bear box.

  8. Lock Bike - Before leaving camp to shower, secure your bike.  I usually lock to a picnic bench or tree.  Your bike is probably not going to be stolen, but why risk it?

  9. Shower Time/Laundry - Wash up, you filthy beast.  Also, wash your day's riding clothes (shirt, shorts, socks) while you're in the shower.  You'll get a rash, otherwise.  

  10. Dishes - Wash your dishes in the bathroom sink after the shower.  This step may be optional depending on how you eat.

  11. Hang Wet Clothes from Bike - This will not dry them, but will get them closer to it.

  12. Pull Tarp over Bike - Tarping your bike will keep it dry overnight.  Even if it doesn't rain, morning dew will soak your saddle.  Make sure to tuck the tarp under the tires so it doesn't flap around in the wind at night.
At this point you're free!  Do whatever you want!  Explore the campgrounds, phone a friend, read a book, or just go to bed.  The world is your oyster and you have a bed waiting for you when you're ready to crash.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Body is Falling Apart

Day 8 - Sept. 26, 2016 -  Cayce, SC > Monroe, NC

Over the years, I've found that there are only so many days of riding I can do in a row before my body gives me an ultimatum: Either take a day off, or I'm going to steer this bike directly into traffic.  A week straight is just shy of my arms taking subconscious control and turning sharply into a passing semi.  By the time I reached Cayce, I was seven days in, pressing my luck, and running on fumes, caffeine, and ibuprofen.

By the time I left Cayce, after spending a lot of time plopped on a couch (and some on a bar stool), I felt a lot better.  I felt better, but didn't look better as I was now rocking two knee braces and, for the first time in my life, an ankle brace.  I was used to my knees hating me, but now my achilles tendon appeared to have caught a case of tendinitis.  I have since learned that all of these problems may be rooted in a lack of hip stretching.  Or stretching in general.  Getting old sucks.


Aside from purchasing an ankle brace over my days off, I'd also bought some instant cold packs for the road.  I figured they were worth a try since I was increasingly achy at the end of each day.  The only option after that would be to motorize my bicycle.  I could probably find a weed whacker in someone's front yard (I was in the South) and pull the motor off if I needed to.  I really hoped it wasn't going to come to that but wasn't above it.

Learning from mistakes of the past two starts, my first day after the long break was not going to be a full century.  It wasn't even going to be 90 miles.  My ankle and knees thanked me for finally thinking a little.

And that was it for South Carolina.  One long day riding in, one not so long day riding out.  Next stop, North Carolina.  This time, not in beautiful Asheville, but outside of presently rioting Charlotte.  In Monroe, specifically.  There would be no camping at the end of this first day back on the road, not so much by choice but by dearth thereof.  My only reasonably distanced option would be a cheapo motel, which seemed lame after spending three days relaxing indoors, but didn't seem half bad once I started dripping sweat ten minutes into my ride.  It was still Southern hot out even if it was almost October.

Nothing to really report from that day, with the exception of me being knocked down a peg or two during a rest stop.  Around lunch time, I stopped at a little strip mall gas station convenience store for a sandwich and a caffeine re-up.  Standing outside of the store were a bunch of hard-hatted dudes eating lunch around their pickup truck full of tree trimming tools.  As I leaned my bike against the store, one of the guys asked where I was heading from.  I told him I was coming from Cayce, but that I'd started in Mississippi and was ending in Philly.  Based on the reactions of other folks I'd met on the road over the years, I assumed I'd get a response like "wow" or "cool" or "doesn't your butt get sore?"  That wasn't what I got.

Instead, I got a story of how he'd met a fella just like me a while back who'd been riding for over 10,000 miles.  That guy even kept a blog of his travels so people could keep track of where he'd been and where he was going.  Yup, that was one cool bike riding dude.  

Whatever, man.  I'm pretty cool too.  With my knee braces.  And ankle brace.  Sure, I may not guerrilla camp, but, like I stay at really cheap motels and State Parks which are barely above sleeping in a ditch a few hundred feet off the highway.  Ugh.  Nothing impresses you people.  Stupid South.

By the time I reached Monroe, it was way late and the cheapo motel I'd found online had a sign out front that said "No Vacany" (sic), confirming my assertion that the South is stupid.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Camp Muir: Ooh-Wee

If you're like me, you love buying things with clever sayings printed on them, inspirational or otherwise.  I find them to be the best way to really tell the world who I am without having to open my mouth or update my personal blog.  Don't talk to me until I've had my coffee!  I only drink wine on days ending in Y!  Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit!

That said, I've seen a lot of shirts, signs, and coffee mugs lately sporting a quote attributed to John Muir.  Specifically the phrase: The mountains are calling and I must go.  Well, that catchy little phrase taken from a letter to his sister was all I needed to be inspired to hike to the Camp Muir summit base camp, a mere 10,000' up Mt. Rainier.  Armed with little more than a 100oz Camelbak, two 24oz water bottles, electrolyte tabs, sandwiches, trail mix, a Clif Bar, a Luna Bar, almonds, SPF 40 zinc oxide, sunglasses, gloves, hat, extra layers of clothes, a buff, hiking poles, microspike crampons, and a 6,000' head start, I knew I was going to be living the inspiration on my coffee mug.

My desire to be inspired was non-existant when the alarm went off at 4:45am.  By the time we reached the park-n-ride in order to meet up with our other fellow hikers, I was really regretting buying that stupid mug whose coffee was barely keeping me awake.  The ten of us reached the Paradise Visitor's Center around 9am, thankfully, and from there it was only 4.1 miles to Camp Muir.  Only 4.1 miles with 4640' of elevation gain.  That's almost a mile up!  This Muir guy was starting to seem like a real kook.

Mountain, Marmot, Wildflowers.  Something for all. (Photo by Dawn M.)
The first 1.4 miles were on and off of ascending trails.  There were wildflowers and marmots aplenty, but those sights were just distractions from the work ahead.  This hike wasn't about enjoying nature, dammit.  It was about the mountain that was calling.

After running out of trail, we reached the snowfield that would lead us to Muir.  Only 2.7 miles and 3000' on slippery snow pack.  We slowly worked our way up, and again, people tried to point out that we were surrounded by beautiful scenery.  More distractions!  So what if we could see Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helens?  So what if there was bright blue snow underneath our footprints?  So what if there were a pack of ravens wildly cawing and flying around the different rock piles we passed?  The goddamn mountain was still calling!  I must go!

Left to Right: Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens (Photo by Jessica L.)

Five and a half hours after we began, we reached Muir.  We were exhausted, many party members had severe frostbite, two people were lost in a crevasse, and rations were running low, but we had done it.  We had answered the mountain's call and we were inspired.  Inspired to sit down and eat lunch, because were also tired and hungry.

Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come.  After trudging up those 2.7 miles of snow, we were left with few options for the descent.  If we walked, it would be knee-achingly slow.  If we ran, we would like slip, fall, and slide off into a crevasse.  This meant we were forced to sit our butts down on trash bags and glissade (sled) back down to the trail.  The screams of terror as we rode down thousands of feet could have easily been mistaken for whoops and hollers of excitement, but they shouldn't be.  Does riding a trash bag down a 3000' descent sound remotely fun?  Does it?

Butt thoroughly frozen, we finally reached the trail.  We were happy to be able to walk once more, our backs and hips yearning for the weight of our packs.  A short while later we reached the parking lot.  The mountain had called and we had answered.  We lost a lot of good people up there, but they died for a good cause.  A coffee mug.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Seattle Update: So Many Hills

I've been in Seattle for about five weeks now, so I feel like I can speak with some serious authority when I say that Seattle has a lot of hills.  Wikipedia says there are seven, but I disagree.  I'm fairly certain there are actually hundreds, if not thousands.  The seven are listed as: First Hill, Yesler Hill, Cherry Hill, Denny Hill, Capitol Hill, Queen Anne Hill, and Beacon Hill.  Now, I don't live at any of those places, but I know I live on a hill.  

I have to go up that hill almost every time I want to get home.  And it's not a little hill that could easily be overlooked or forgotten.  My legs and lungs tell me it's not a little hill.  That and my previous experience with hills.  Does Seattle really think that I won't think a hill's a hill if it's not listed as one of the seven hills?  Do you think I'm that dumb, Seattle?

I've been to Ballard.  There's a hill to get into Ballard, but there's no Ballard Hill.  I've been to Fremont.  There's a hill to get into Fremont, but there's no Fremont Hill.  I've been up Phinney Ridge, which is most definitely euphemistically labeled a ridge and should be more accurately called Phinney Hill.   So why are there so many hills in Seattle that aren't granted hillhood?  Why is there such a vast hill cover-up throughout Seattle?  What is the purpose of the lies?  Who stands to gain from this hill conspiracy?

Paraglider setting sail of of one of Seattle's many imaginary hills.

Well, even the greenest Seattlite knows who stands to gain the most from hill-free propaganda: the housing profiteers.  All over Seattle, housing prices have skyrocketed, and I can only assume that this is the direct result of this flat-earth cover-up, these topographical untruths, these low elevation-gain lies!  With the median home price sitting at around $700,000, the whole city is being linguistically leveled to increase home value.  How else could you sell a sub-1000 ft² house at the top of a steep hill for that much money?

Property owners, home developers, realtors — they'll say anything to fill their pockets.  They don't care about you, they only care about your money.  Don't fall for their dirty little lies; fall for me pristine truths.  So here's the truth: Seattle is full of hills, has terrible weather, is horribly overpriced, has no jobs, and is going to break off into the ocean after the next big earthquake.  Don't move here and waste hundreds of thousands of dollars on a live-in shoebox.  If anything, you should move to Portland.

You may not know it now, but what I'm telling you is kind of a big deal.  I'm saying the things that the city doesn't want the world to know, speaking the big truths about hills like a real Troy Brockovich.  I don't want to label myself a hero, but if I get silenced in the upcoming weeks by the Condo Mafia that's taking over Ballard, I'd like to remembered as one.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Belated Birthday Post: Pre-Birthday Glitter

In all the Birthdayween excitement, I completely forgot to tell you about the pre-birthday crafting.  On Birthday Eve, a bunch of folks got together to create glitter art in my honor, a traditional activity for celebrating one's entrance into the latter half of their 30's.  With the sparkle of the glitter being symbolic of youthful exuberance and the arduous, post-crafting clean up representative of the later years in life spent rectifying the mess left in the wake of a capricious early adulthood, glitter art has become synonymous with the 36th birthday.

As was expected, the night was a complete and total success, and I feel that I've been properly launched into this brave new age.  But don't just take my word for it, have a look at the artful outcome:

Each piece is for sale.  Only serious offers will be entertained.

It's a lot to take in, I know, but allow me to take your hand and guide you through this glitter gallery:
  • Tree - Summer (2 of 4)
  • Jack-o-Lantern - Fall (3 of 4)
  • Blue Ribbon - Winning is everything
  • Lines #2 - Further exploration of the theme
  • Bee - Spring (1 or 4)
  • Lines #1 - An exploration of a theme
  • Seattle - A summation
  • Flowers - For me???
  • Owl - They're everywhere these days
  • Snowflake - Winter (4 of 4)
  • Shooting Star - Ode to Bad Company
  • Bubbles - Circles?
  • L + A - Reunion
  • Bloobs - For petting
  • Cactus - Not for petting
  • HBDHT♡ - Self explanatory
  • Fox - No fair.  Who brought the artist to the craft party?
It's amazing what human beings are capable, isn't it?  To create such beauty from something so simple as chopped up plastic and decorative paper?  It was a truly elegant and inspiring evening, and I couldn't be more excited about being closer to my 70th birthday than I am to my birth.  Yup, definitely happy to be 36 and playing with glitter on my birthday instead of, like, I don't know, sipping cocktails while floating in my glass-bottomed infinity pool on my penthouse balcony.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Touring Tip: Not Dying in the Summer

Gang, it's the middle of summer so hopefully all of you are out enjoying the weather while you can, possibly on your bicycle.  Those freezing cold winter rides are finally a distant memory.  No more toes going numb.  No more hands getting chapped and cracked.  No more frozen boogers that thaw as soon as you reach the office forcing you to beeline to your desk to blow your nose before someone stops you to ask you if you saw that email from old so and so and can you believe they changed that policy and are you sick?  Your nose is running; don't touch me if you're sick.  Ha ha, just kidding.  But seriously, that email.  Also seriously, don't touch me.

Yup, now you have a whole different set of riding problems, the top being heat exhaustion, sun stroke, and dehydration.  And those are just the potentially fatal ones!  Non-lethal include mosquitoes, bear attacks, and overcrowded campgrounds.  But hey, at least you're not cold, right?

If you plan on touring this summer, you probably don't want to die.  With that in mind, here are some tips for spitting in the face of nature and staying alive:
  • Stay Hydrated - Drink a lot of water.  Constantly.  Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink water.  If you are thirsty, you are already far behind in your water consumption.  Refill your water bottles every single chance you get.  Even if you still have over half a bottle, if you find a water fountain, you drink as much as you can and then fill back up.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to constantly be drinking water.  Clear pee is your best friend.

  • Stay Electrolyted - This one goes hand in hand with the above.  As you ride, you will sweat.  If you are like Tibor, you will sweat profusely.  As you sweat, you will lose a lot of salt.  This will be very noticeable at the end of a ride when the sweat dries from your limbs leaving a thin (sometimes thick) layer of salt crystals.  Since you're losing all of this salt, you are going to need to replace it, especially as you are rehydrating.  An electrolyte imbalance (caused by losing all your salt but still maintaining all your water) can be just as dangerous as dehydration (when imbalanced, your internal neuron network's electrical grid starts to fail), and can have similar symptoms and arguably way more disturbing ones to boot.  Lightheadedness is a surefire sign that I'm getting unbalanced, so I don't ignore any brain haze while riding.  To manage your electrolytes, add a supplement to your fluid intake.  Coconut water is a natural solution, Gatorade also works, and Nuun tabs are a low sugar alternative.  You could also take Salt Stick tablets or bring a bottle of pickle juice.

  • Zinc-Based Sunblock - Keep the sun off of your delicate skin with a high SPF, zinc-based sunblock.  Not only will zinc prevent you from getting sun stroke, it will keep you unburned and decrease your chances of getting both wrinkles and skin cancer.  If you can, steer clear from Oxybenzone-based sunblocks as they are quite bad for the environment.

  • Take Breaks in the Shade - Listen to your body.  If you don't feel great, take a break.  And when you take a break, do it in the shade.  There is no shame in taking 20 breaks over 100 miles if it means you aren't going to collapse along the side of the road and have to be taken by ambulance to a hospital.  The EMT is not going to properly lock up your bike before carting you off.  How are you going to finish your tour from a hospital without a bicycle?

Oh, and probably don't ride your bike in the middle of the desert in August?  I feel like I should have to tell you that one, but some of you just have really bad ideas.

Here's a nice place to ride a bike!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Birthdayween: The New Oneness

Holiday idea: Birthdayween.  Every July 2nd, people must dress up in costume to celebrate my birthday.  It's a mashup of my two favorite holidays, so let's get this movement started.  Here are some costume ideas:
  • Sea Otter
  • Bicycle
  • Steve Yzerman
  • Cat
  • Wizard
  • Armadillo
  • Xenomorph
  • Flickering Fluorescent Lighting in a Horror Movie
  • Meerkat
  • Cool Breeze
  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • Anything that Eats Mosquitoes
  • Juniper Tree
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Polychromatic Jasper
  • Banana Wearing a Bandolier
  • Snow
In other news, Lauren took me to see Ween on my birthday and it was great.  The show was at Marymoor Park, they played for two and a half hours straight, and Tae gave me a pin for my birthday:

Hail Boognish

Having not seen Ween in a few years, I hadn't realized how far they'd been sucked into hippie jam band culture.  Not that Ween is a bunch of hippies, but there were some serious Phish-level behaviors going on in the crowd.  There's the culture of commodification and collection that permeates the jam scene and it is now strong within the Ween community.

Between limited run merch peacockery, show count braggary, and best version of a song argumentary, it felt like I was back on the East Coast.  "Dude. Jones Beach. Spring Tour 1998. Hands down best Guyute ever!  And I'd know because I've been to 150 shows and bought posters at every one.  You should come over sometime and see them."  It's like shows, songs, and merch are the adult baseball cards for little boys that grew up and didn't know what to collect anymore.  (I used "boys" because it seems to be a male-dominated phenomenon.)

Anyway, the show was way awesome, the Marymoor is rad, and the Ween still rocks hard AF.