Friday, June 19, 2015

Canyon Lake Trip

Dates: June 6th & 7th, 2015
Distance: 76.5 miles & 74.5 miles
Song of the Day: I Don't Want to Live There - The Lonely Forest

My friend Torrey invited me to go out bike camping over the weekend. The destination was to an abandoned camp site out on forest service land. Or maybe it was just an abandoned picnic table. The reports weren't very clear. But we did know there was a lake out there somewhere. Seemed as good a destination as any.

I met Torrey up in the U-district. From there we took the Burke out of town. I have sort of a love/hate relationship with the BGT. It is a flat train with few crossings. It also goes for a long way and connects Ballard with the trails on the north end of Lake Washington. This also makes it very popular. So on a Saturday morning you spend a lot of time avoiding runners, joggers, dog walkers, and all sorts of people. It isn't that I mind other people getting out to enjoy the day, just that it is a bit more stressful.

In Woodinville we left the the comfort of the trail and headed north on the highway. In many ways I liked this better. Sure there were fast moving noisy cars, but there was also a wide shoulder. Torrey and I could just cruise down the road. And we did. The two of us made great time into Snohomish. From there we took the Centennial trail up to Granite Falls. Stopped to supply for the night.

Out of Granite Falls we took the Mountain Loop Highway. That wasn't as good. Often there was no shoulder. Or it would come and go. But we were starting to get really out there so traffic was usually pretty light. Still, it was nice to get off the highway and turn onto Green Mountain road.

I will also caution my dear readers out there to avoid any road with the word "mountain" in the name. This road was steep and steeper. At least it was paved. When we crossed into National Forest land the asphalt disappeared, but the road wasn't quite as steep. It wasn't very well marked either. Usually the forest roads have something to tell you which one you are on. Not these. We took a couple of guess and got a couple of guesses wrong.

Eventually we did find the right road. It had been closed to car traffic, and it was apparent why. There were a couple of really nasty washouts on it. When the road wasn't getting washed out it was often unridable, either due to trees down on the road or to being so steep.

Torrey and I got to the top of the ridge and one section of the road ended in what at one time must have been a parking lot. Everything from there on out had not been a road for a very long time. Clearly it had been at one point but it was not an ex-road. In areas where the path slumped down the ravine I could see in the cracks a well laid road bed. There were sections that were even ridable. Mostly it was overgrown though. Lots of tree falls. Lots of culverts that had failed and been washed away. There was one point where the footbridge across a small stream had collapsed. That was disconcerting.

Still the views from the ridge were gorgeous. It was wild to think about how far out of the city we had come without going that far. We were out of cellphone range. The only evidence of human effort out here was the former road we were using. This is one of the big reasons I live in Seattle. You don't have to go very far to find something wild.

After two miles we got to the fork. I had left the navigation up to Torrey. He said we should go right, and we did. The path at this point was almost non-existent. We were bushwhacking through trees and bushes. It was like the Clam Slam adventure I did a few years back. Just shouldering the bike and diving through a bush.

After a few hundred yards we decided we must have taken the wrong turn at the fork. So we went back and took the left fork. It wasn't any better. We went down about as far and didn't see the lake. By that point the sun had set and we really needed to set up camp. We found a nice mossy patch of old road bed and pitched our tents there. Torrey and I ate a bit of food and chatted as the stars bloomed overhead.

The next morning we got up and packed our stuff. The bushwhack out to the real road wasn't any better this time around. At least we knew what we were doing. Things got faster back on the Forest Service road. Although Torrey had a flat. I had some food while he fixed that. Then right as we were ready to leave, I noticed my tire was flat. Crap. So he had some stuff to eat while I fixed my flat.

It was a fairly easy cruise back into Seattle. I left Torrey in Woodinville. On the way home I heard some other friends were swimming at T-docks. So even though I never did see Canyon Lake I did at least get some swimming in.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

West Side Invite 2015

Date: May 24th, 2015
Distance: 41 miles
Song of the Day: Gojira - Bottlenose Koffins

It has been in the works for a while, but the West Side Invite was in Seattle for 2015. This is like NACCC or CMWC, but for people from the west coast. Then again, it isn't like people were going to be turned away. I was really excited to see Smokin' Joe from Australia there. Allan from Glasgow was also down. (But he is living in Vancouver B.C. now, so that is a bit easier trip.)

I only just got back into town the day before the main race. I went and helped out with the Out-of-Towner's race. Then rode around with those guys most of the evening. Saw Joe again. He was joking with me on about how he was going to come in first in the main race and I could follow him to second place. Fun times, but we would see how everything went the next day.

I arrived right at noon on Sunday for the race briefing. Allan lent me a copy of the race rules. I am glad that I had a chance to read them. This was one of the most complicated races I had ever seen. There was a required manifest with four sections. Each section had to be completed before the next one could be started. A second manifest with rush jobs and long haul jobs. Then after 90 minutes racers could pick up a third manifest for short jobs. This was also the longest race I had ever seen. It was three hours and thirty three minutes long. Unlike NACCC or CMWC, this wouldn't be on a closed course. It would be a race through traffic, pedestrians, and lights. And for once, it started right on time at 1:00 PM.

I thought I was doing pretty good at the beginning. I was racing right and generally making good choices. Well, except I went to Kerry park one more time than I needed to. Oh well. But I did a decent job of conserving elevation. I rode both the Aurora bridge to Wallingford, and the I-5 bridge back to capitol hill. (It may sound weird, but Aurora is actually worse.) From then on I was just hitting stops and trying to race through the required manifest. Most of the stops were in the downtown area. That didn't make them easy though. Downtown has lots of hills in it. I did Back Alley Bikes in Pioneer Square to 6th and Seneca a half dozen times. Even getting the required manifest was tough. I only completed that stuff with 3 minutes to spare.

By the end of the race, I was worked. I had a little food and took a nap on the ground for about half an hour. That evening everyone re-grouped at Mobius in SoDo. The part started off pretty chill. People mostly relaxing and recovering. We had an open forum to discuss the location of the next West Side invite, and also anything else messengers might have to discuss. (There is a race in Vancouver at the end of June...)

Then the part kicked off with Fred's band playing. They were really cool. Very fun to watch. Then really got jumping with Bottlenose Koffins. Like literally jumping. With all the shirtless dudes slamming around I thought the band was going to get wrecked. The BNK guys seemed to take it in stride and played on. As long as their stuff wasn't smashed I think they enjoyed the energy of the crowd.

After that it was award ceremony time. Allan won the Out-of-Towner's race on Saturday. So that was rad. Smokin' Joe came in third for the main race, that was also cool. I was shocked to come in 2nd place. Frankly I didn't believe I had done that well and almost didn't believe they were calling my name. I was really happy about it. I even won a brand new Dank bag. How cool is that?

Smokin' Joe and I
Remember how Joe was talking about winning the race the night before? Well after the awards he was giving me crap about how I was supposed to have let him win. I shot back with the fact that I had come in second like he said. It wasn't my fault he didn't win. We both had a good laugh about that. Joe, good to hang out with you again man.

I would also like to thank Fred, Face, and everyone else for putting this on. It was such a great time. The race was fantastic. The toughest race I have yet done, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Then a great party and good times were had. Well done.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ben Country X

Date: May 9th & 10th, 2015
Distance: 160 miles (over two days)
Song of the Day: The Boys are Back in Town - Thin Lizzy

Well, it is time once again for Ben's annual birthday ride. Full of the same kind of joy and shenanigans as always. This year we had 63 riders and a few more in support cars. It is so fun to be ridding around in such a big group and having fun on bikes.

Like last year the route headed west onto the Olympic Peninsula. That meant a ferry ride to Bainbridge island. I have crossed the island a few times on a bike. We must have had a good tail wind because that was the easiest/fastest I think I have ever done it. What fun.

From there the group headed north and crossed the Hood Canal bridge. Then a few back roads, finally onto some gravel forest roads. I stopped to wait for one of the guys to fix a flat. So there were four of us who were left behind. I had to use my tracking skills to figure out where the group went. Fortunately the gravel roads showed the bike tracks pretty well. We met up with everyone at the Quilcene.

After that it was a big climb and a decent south along the 101. We took a right onto the Doeswallups road, and stayed on that until it turned into gravel and then vanished into the river. Ben is good at finding washed out roads where bikes can pass, but cars can't. This time though, the bike path involved a bunch of steep switchbacks. I can't say that I minded too much, but I know there were a number of other people who at the end of a long day weren't feeling it. But everyone made it, and there weren't really any complaints.

Plus the camp site was great. Big enough for us to spread out, which is important when you have 70 people. It was also right along the river. As soon as I was done hauling gear around, I went for a dip. Cold but refreshing. The evening had the usual camp craziness. Three different fires and a bunch of goofing off.

The next day I was the last one up. Everyone else had already packed up. For a second I almost wondered if I had dreamed the whole thing. But Mike, Kara, Ross, and Sweeny were waiting for me. We rode back into town and got a bit of food. After bunch the group headed south along Hood Canal. Kara, Ross, and Sweeny went off to spend one more night at a cabin in that area. Mike and I headed for Seattle. I split off from him at Belfair to bust to Southworth. That road was longer and steeper than I expected. In total I did 88 miles on the day. Still it was a lot of fun. Great weekend all.


Thursday, April 30, 2015


Well, I finally got to ride my bike in Singapore. (You might remember my last trip down there. Okay, you probably don't remember that.) It was actually not as bad as I was expecting. Their bike infrastructure is still basically non-existent. It seems like when Singapore became independent 50 years ago, the government seems to have made a point of being modern. Looking to America for ideas, this meant clearing the roads for cars. So the few bike paths through the city are hidden away in parks and tucked away from the cars. That isn't for me.

The strange thing is that I felt quite comfortable riding on the roads. I am used to riding fast and tangling with traffic. While there really weren't bike lanes or cycle tracks, the main roads generally have two or three lanes. I could usually ride in the center of the right lane and not be bothered at all. Sure, I got honked at a few times, but again I am used to that.What I didn't expect was Singapore to be so big. I hadn't realized that it is about 30 miles across. I never did get the scale of it right. I kept thinking for things to be much closer than they were.

I also heard from several residents about something else. Something they called "night cycling". This would be a group of friends getting together to ride their bikes in the cooler weather after dark and when traffic congestion had died down. At dinner one evening I even saw a group of about a dozen people riding around. It reminded me of Point 83.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Satun to Penang

Date: April 19th, 2015
Distance: 152 miles
Song of the Day: Never Go Easy - Lost Lander

I got up early again, trying to get in as many miles as I could before the heat set in. I knew it was going to be a tough ride. This was the last day of my mini-tour of Thailand and Malaysia. I had arranged for a bus to take me from Penang to Singapore. (That is where my flight home is from.) I was hoping to get into Penang before dark and maybe get a chance to see the city.

The first goal was just getting out of Thailand. The morning was cool, by Thailand standards. Compared with the afternoon before it was quite pleasant. Gone were the sore muscles and bones of the day before. I was fresh and everything was going well. The road was even fairly flat with no wind. I was off in a crazy place doing something amazing.

Things started to get a bit more hilly as I crossed the border in to Malaysia. I love crossing borders on a bike. There really isn't anything like crossing into a new country under your own power. Knowing that you got yourself there. I guess it feels like really earning that stamp in your passport. The checkpoint itself was fairly routine. Maybe that is another thing I like. When you bicycle across a border they don't ask too many questions.

Changing countries didn't make the landscape less awesome. I tried to take pictures of it, but that can't truly express how gorgeous it all was. The little details that you pick out. The sounds. The smells. The heat. This world is so big and so amazing I wish there was a better way to share experiences like this. The only thing I have come up with so far is to be aware of being in that place and enjoy every moment of it.

After the border the road got really steep really fast. I had seen it on the map the
day before. It looked like someone had just drawn a squiggle on it. That is never a good sign. On a two dimensional map that is a way to express how a road changes elevation. And change it did. Even in the reasonably cool morning, I was overheating. I had to take a break three times on the way up. Then again, the view from the top was well worth it. The decent on the other side was even better. Steep, with tight corners. Even with my bag on the front it was awesome. I hit 42 miles an hour going down that thing. Maryhill Loops, eat your heart out.

That was the last of the really interesting terrain though. The rest of the day would be flat. And hot. Then hotter. Then even hotter. The afternoon became clear blue, with a few clouds hiding out by the horizon. It was over 100° in the shade, and there wasn't much of that. I know I have biked in hotter weather, but at least that was dry heat. This was a wet heat where sweating didn't do much. There were parts where I couldn't make more than five miles without stopping. I went through 11 liters of water. Most of that was with ice in it. It was apparently a Malaysian holiday, so that meant most of the stores were closed. Fortuneatly most of the little restaurants and other milkshake shops were open. Basically all of them had ice. I would stop and top off with more ice and water. Then I would go for about 20 minutes and have to stop because I was overheated. It really was miserable going. I can't say that I enjoyed it that much. Somehow I managed to keep pushing myself.

About an hour before sunset, the sky clouded up. It didn't cool things off that much, but at least I was out of the sun. A thunderstorm rolled over and it became so dark I though the sun had already set. The rain at least did finally cool things off. When the rain stopped I got a bit of a tailwind into Butterworth. I was cranking as hard as I could to get there before dark. I didn't quite make it, and by the time the sun set (for real) it was raining again.

In Butterworth I caught the ferry for Penang. I was on with some cars and about 50 other locals on motorcycles. I wonder what they thought about the weird guy on the bicycle. I could see the city in front of me, sparkling in the darkness. I thought it was going to be some backwards place. Penang looked to me like any modern western city. I thought I had an hour to play around the island. Maybe get some food. Well, it turns out there is an hour time difference between Thailand and Malaysia. So instead of getting to enjoy the city I had to race off to the bus station. I got there just in time to get my bus. Wet, tired, smelly, and sore.

Bar none, this was the hardest day of my life. I can't think of any other time where I have pushed myself so hard for so long. One of my friends was asking me why I do this stuff. I usually say because I enjoy it. But I have to admit the middle of the day was just grueling and miserable. It isn't that I am into masochism. I don't enjoy making myself suffer. I have noticed that I am able to endure hardships that most others can't. That isn't meant as an egotistical brag. That is just a recognition of my character. Since I can, I try to push myself as far as I can go. George Mallory was quoted as saying he wanted to climb Everest "because it's there". I think there is something in us, some of us at least, that wants to see what our limits are. To take on the big challenges and see what happens when the rubber meets the road. At least this way, I get to see a few more back roads I never planned on going to.

I also want to thank all the people who helped me out along the way. I know they will never see this. Most don't even speak the same language. All the same, they were there with some ice or some water. Truly, that was saving my life. It is amazing to travel and see the world is filled with great people. People who look at some crazy fool and do their best to help. To all those people out there, thank you.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sikao to Satun

Date: April 18th, 2015
Distance: 121 miles
Song of the Day: It's Real – Wild Ones

I actually did get up early for this ride. I knew it was going to be pretty long day so I was out the door by 7:30. I did take it pretty slow though. Stopping to take some pictures and get some food. I wasn't in much of a rush. Plus there were a head wind that I wasn't happy about.

After leaving the beach the scenery got pretty boring. Nice green forests, but flat and tedious. By mid-morning that had changed. I was riding through rubber plantations. I am not used to seeing trees so well organized. These were all evenly spaced in rows. Each one had a little cup hanging on it, though these were all turned over because I guess it isn't the right season to harvest. It was really neat to see.

The afternoon wore on me though. There were no clouds. No rain. I was making good time, but it was exhausting work. The heat was at least 95 degrees, and humid. Like biking in a sauna. Try it sometime and see how long you will last. I had to pull over a few times because I was getting overheated. I would get something to drink and maybe something to eat. I was happy to discover that they really do make a Thai iced tea in here. Chai yao, if you want to ask for it. I wish I had figured that out days ago.

The landscape had also changed again. I was riding through rolling hills. More jungle cliffs as well. I stopped a lot to take pictures. It was like there was something cool around every corner.

It finally did cloud up about just an hour before sunset. I could see a thunderstorm in the distance and I was worried it was going to drench me. When I made the turn to go to Satun I caught up with the tail wind again. I was cruising at above 20 miles an hour. Passing several of the motorbikes. Once again I was racing to get to my destination. This time I was watching the sun set on my right and the thunderstorm roll in on my left. Thanks to the wind I got to town just in time. By the time I booked into my hotel the storm was sending rain and lightning out over the city. Just in time.


Krabi to Sikao

Date: April 17th, 2015
Distance: 67 miles
Song of the Day: I Wish it Would Rain Down – Phil Collins

I had wanted to get up early and get riding before the day got too hot. That didn't work out so well. I was so tired from the previous day. Biking all day makes you super tired. So I slept in. Didn't really get on the road until about 10:00. I wasn't too worried, but the day was just going to be hot. My one goal was to get to the ocean in time to go swimming.

Sadly the road from Krabi was wasn't as neat as the day before. There were a couple of cool places, but mostly it was just a lot of riding in very hot weather. That kept up through most of the afternoon. Then it rained. I avoided that one by having (a second) lunch. But the next time it rained I got soaked. At least the rain cooled things off and made it bearable.

I did get to the beach town before dark. I found a place to stay and headed to the ocean. I have been swimming in the Indian ocean once before. It wasn't that great. The shore was all coral and shallow. I had to wade out for a long time to get deep enough to swim. I was hoping for something better in Thailand. It turns out, not much. The beach here was so shallow people were ferrying goods out to ships half a mile off shore. That was only waist deep. At least it wasn't rocky. It was populated by hermit crabs though. I did my best to avoid them. Eventually I did my best to swim in the knee deep water. It was almost cool and refreshing. Maybe that is why you go to one of the resort islands like Phuket or Phi Phi.


Koh Phangan to Krabi

Date: April 16th, 2015
Distance: 143 miles
Song of the Day: Knowing the Things that I Know – The Blow

I have been in Thailand for a bit more than a week. All of it on the islands in the Gulf of Thailand. Very nice, but not much serious riding. I have been just hanging out with some friends. This morning was different. I got up stupid early. As in, I got to see the sun rise over the ocean at Haad Rin. I got on my bike, heading west.

The morning broke hot and humid. I was glad to get the early start because the worst climbs of the day were all in the first couple of miles. The road out of Haad Rin is nuts. A steep winding road. I am used to Seattle hills, but there are a couple of sections marked at 25%. But after that things settled down. I made it to Thong Sala with more than enough time for the 7:00 AM boat. Once I was squared away on the ship I was even able to get some sleep. Which was good as it was a two and a half hour ride. I didn't wake up until we were almost at Donsek.

Getting there was amazing. I was impressed before even leaving the boat. The hills in the area look like something out of The Jungle Book. Green forests with limestone cliffs towering over them. And it was like that for most of the day. I kept looking around and seeing more amazing landscapes. Eventually I stopped taking pictures because I never would have gone anywhere. I just kept looking around and being amazed at how gorgeous Thailand is.

I also really liked the roads here. They are well paved. I think I saw maybe two potholes. They also have a wide shoulder. The drivers here are also very courteous. No one yells at you. Well, they do, but only to say hello. People love to wave, or smile, or give you a thumbs-up. I haven't yet heard any angry honking either. Mostly people give you a quick “beep-beep” to let you know they are coming by. The people driving here almost totally lack the agression that most people in the US seem to have.

I was also getting chased by the wind for most of the day. That helped as well. In the afternoon I was stuck under a dark cloud for an hour. That was fantastic. Getting some shade from the sun really helped. But that couldn't last. Soon enough the clouds started pouring rain and lighting. I stopped to eat and wait out the storm.

Though I was doing pretty well, it did get dark on me. I stopped for a bit to get my headlight arranged. It fit very nicely onto my lock which was hanging off the front of my bag. I also put away my sunglasses and put on my clear ones. You might think it is dorky to wear them, but not two minutes later a bug ran smack into them. Not a little bug. This one had some meat on it. So instead of hitting my left eye, it just bounced off with a loud smack.

Moments later another bug smacked into my helmet. Then one hit me in the chest and started crawling around. I brushed it off, but that was pretty creepy. Then another one hit my glasses. (Still glad I was wearing them.) What the hell was happening? In my light I could see something about the size of a quarter descending out of the trees. It looked like a brown and white spider lowering itself down on a thread. At that point a car drove by. Its headlights showed hundreds of them in the air. It was a shower of arthropods. Now I can't be sure they were all spiders. Maybe it was just the one I saw. I wasn't about to stick around and check though. When you find yourself in the middle of a biblical plague, you just get the hell out of there. I started jamming down the road as hard as I could. All the while dodging invertebrates like a madman. After a couple of intense minutes it was over. Maybe it was just something that happened right after sunset. Maybe it was just those trees I was under. Either way, it was one of the scariest moments I have ever had on a bike. Come and bike Thailand, beautiful landscapes and raining spiders.

It took a long time to calm down from that. But I had time. I didn't get into Krabi until almost 9:00 PM. That is a fifteen hour day. I was exhausted. I found a place to check in for the night. I got some food and went to bed.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

CMWC 2015 - Main Race Day

Date: Sunday April 5th, 2015
Distance: 36 miles (27 miles while racing)
Song of the Day: Broke – Modest Mouse

I wasn't happy getting up. I am pretty sure the crash last night broke my shoulder. I can't tell if it is the collar bone or something else, but this isn't a sprain. One of the bones in there is cracked and not happy about it. I wasn't going to miss the final race though. Turns out that biking and wearing a backpack aren't too bad for the shoulder. Trying to change my t-shirt really hurts though. Nothing to do about it, so I left to get in for the final race.

I got to the course just ahead of when the race meeting was supposed to start. It didn't. Not that I mind. I mean, these guys work really hard to put this whole thing on. I am impressed that it happens at all. Most of labor and effort to get it all happening is free. I was happy to wait. That also did give me a chance to have some breakfast. 
Things really got going right around noon. They gave an announcement for all of the people racing. Then everyone was lined up. It was a group start. All sixty people going at the same time. Bikes lined up in order of qualification. The race started at 12:35 and would go on for three hours. 

Photo courtesy of Jambi-Jambi
I started things off pretty slow. I was still annoyed with myself for breaking my shoulder the night before. It wasn't terribly painful, but I could feel it the whole race. It meant I couldn't ride as hard or get the jump on things the way I wanted. Basically I was feeling bummed out by the whole thing. I couldn't compete the way should have been, so I just wanted to finish.  It was more a mental thing than physical. I just wasn't pushing myself to try that hard.

Photo courtesy of Jambi-Jambi
As the race wore on though I started feeling better. Not my shoulder really, that still hurt. I had gotten used to it though, and it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. So I wanted to try and see what I could do. I started picking up my speed doing pretty well. I was able to complete all of the first manifest, plus the required stuff, and all of the rush jobs for extra money. I was really getting into it. I had just about 30 minutes to work on the second manifest. I was really tearing through that one. I probably got about a third of the way through it before time ran out. I wonder how well I would have done if I had been feeling good the whole race. Maybe I need to get myself to Denver and find out...

After the race I did some laundry and took a nap. It is strange to mix one of the most exciting events of my life, with some other mundane things. That is life though. 

That evening I went with Yoshi and some friends to the after party. It was actually really nice and relaxing. I got to chat with the cool people I met and say goodbye. I have had such a fantastic time in Australia. I really enjoyed meeting everyone and being out here. I wish I had more time. There are so many cool people and great places, I wish I had more time for all of them. 

I stayed through the award ceremony. I knew I had no chance of winning anything, but it was fun to cheer for friends. Smokin' Joe won top Australian. Fred from Seattle won  "Most Professional", which I thought was awesome and well deserved. It was fun to see all the people who raced their butts off get some recognition. I made my last goodbyes. Hopefully I will see some of the folks at the Westside Invite. Maybe Denver. Thanks to everyone for helping out and putting the stuff together or just being rad in general. Thanks to Yoshi for giving me a place in Melbourne. I had a wonderful time. I hope to get back one of these days.


CMWC 2015 - Qualifier

Date: Saturday April 4th, 2015
Distance: 32 miles (15 miles while racing)
Song of the Day: One By One - Deep Sea Diver

I got up with Yoshi and had breakfast. A few of his friends were going to come with us over the the qualifier. We wanted to get in early and ride the track and get used to it. It was actually a really nice ride over there. There was a decent bike path from Fooscray down to the Docklands. Melbourne is a little bit like Portland Oregon in terms of being bike friendly.

The area the race was set up in, The Docklands, is just like what it sounds. It is no longer the shipping and transportation hub that it used to be. The container terminals are gone, replaced by high-rise luxury condos. Almost all of the old industrial portions have been paved over and polished.

The course was still being set up when we got there though. We took a few laps around the place. Trying to guess from the map what they intended to do, and how the routes would go. I went to visit all the checkpoints at least twice though. So I got a very good feel for things.

The qualifiers were supposed to start at 11:00 AM. That didn't happen. Messengers can get you a package on time, but they can't seem to organize their own events with that much punctuality. That said, putting something like this on as an amazing feat in itself. They have closed streets. Put up hundred of cone and barriers. Strung miles of plastic ribbon to mark the boundaries. Organized crews to man all of the checkpoints. Frankly I am surprised it went so smoothly. If it was a few hours delayed, well that is understandable.

They let people go in groups of 2 every minute. I was in the second group, and started at 1:31 PM. The qualifier would last 90 minutes. Again, if you don't remember this race is to see who can make the most "money" in that time. To make the cash you have to complete jobs. Each job has a pickup location, a drop off point, and a price. There were also six rush jobs that were worth more, but had to be done in 10 minutes. I thought I did pretty well. I really did know the course. I started doing the rush jobs while there weren't that many people on the course. I was a bit foolish in that I wasn't always picking up the maximum number of jobs when I stopped though. That meant I would have to come back to a checkpoint when I didn't have to. I was just getting used to it though. By the time I started picking through the regular manifest of jobs I had gotten into a groove. I did make one mistake at the end. I was trying to complete 2 jobs before my 90 minutes were up. At the NACCC last summer I missed qualifying because I didn't push hard enough. This time I tried to do too much and ended up coming in over time. I thought that might cost me qualifying. I wouldn't find out until later though.

That afternoon one of the Melbourne guys was organizing a race. I wanted to try it, but it was an old school sort of race. Only for people on fixed gear bicycles. Ah well. I went to the start and hung out with a bunch of other guys who weren't racing. Just talking and swapping stories.

From there we headed over to the party. It was in this weird warehouse. They had some dance music upstairs and some other stuff. It was a lot of fun. After a couple hours of milling about there someone noticed the results for the qualifier had been posted. The top sixty were going to race in the final. I placed 45th! I qualified.

I was so excited about getting to race the next day I promptly crashed my bike on the way home. Durg. The bike was okay, but I hurt my shoulder pretty good. I didn't notice until I got home that I had also scratched up one side of my face. Sometimes I am really good, sometimes I am really stupid. It is really painful when the two come so close together, though.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

CMWC 2015 - Track Day

Date: Friday April 3rd, 2015
Distance: 22 miles
Song of the Day: Halfway Home - TV on the Radio

I was able to sleep in wonderfully late today. It was almost checkout time when I got up. I grabbed a quick shower and packed up my stuff. Because it was good Friday many of the shops were closed. So we figured we would just get breakfast at the hostel. That was almost a good idea. The staff kitchen staff was nice, but their refrigerator has been unplugged. Most of their stuff spoiled so the menu was a bit limited and took quite a while to get prepared. Oh well. They were very nice and the food was good when it came.

After that we headed down to road to the Brunswick Velodrome. They had a cyclocross race course set up in the center of it. I wanted to give it a go but they started five minutes before I got there. Whoops. Ah well. Probably just as well. My legs were stiff and sore from the trip down to Melbourne. After the cross race they had a few track events. I am not much for track cycling, but it was fun to watch at least.

There was an alley cat in the afternoon. Part of me wanted to race, but I also still had all my stuff on my bike. (Like a tent and sleeping bag.) I didn't really want to tear across Melbourne with it all. So I went to man a checkpoint with my friend Nick from Brisbane. It was a good time. We helped a random guy patch a tube. There was also a documentary crew that showed up to film the checkpoint. I hope they got some good stuff.

After the race there was a party in the Fitzroy area of town. I tried out for the goldsprints that were set up. (This is basically two stationary bikes with a computer to determine how fast and far they are going. The two riders then race each other.) They also had a live metal band to play music while the race was on. I didn't do well, though. I was pitted against Fuego, one of the guys racing track earlier in the day. Ah well. It was all in good fun.

I did get to finally meet Yoshi, the guy I was going to stay with. After the sprints we rode back over to his place. It is a cool old building. I crashed on the couch and slept like a baby.


CMWC 2015 - Group Ride - Day 4

Date: Thursday April 2nd, 2015
Distance: 55 miles
Song of the Day: I Was Asleep - PonyHomie

I knew this day was going to be shorter, but it wasn't easier. It still had all the hills from previous days. I still don't get how my legs were able to take days and days of hills a few years back. I would have thought will the hills I do in Seattle I would be used to it, but I guess not. 

It was still a fun day. The landscape continued to be picturesque. Lots of rolling pasture lands. Sections of wooded hills. A few streams here and there. 

Just after noon we attempted to climb up to this waterfall. It was only supposed to be about 12 kilometers off the highway. That didn't work out to well. The road soon became almost impassible. Only a few miles in it was down to a one lane dirt track almost too steep to ride. Plus I was on a bike with gears. About half the crew was on fixed gear bikes. That would mean walking up, and probably walking down as well. So we decided to turn around. (Except for Lucas Brunelle and Morgan.)

Instead we went into Bega. It was a nice little town. I was hoping it would have been nice enough to play more cricket, but the wind was up and it was threatening to rain all afternoon. People headed off to find a place to eat or get a beer. 

We were still less than halfway to Melbourne though. The plan was always to get on a bus for the rest of the way. Smokin' Joe had hired one to take us down there. We had 60 people though, which was fine. There were enough seats. Trying to get 60 bikes loaded under the bus was a challenge though. We took the front wheels off. Then the back. In the end we had a pile of about 3 wheels still left over. One of the guys found a place to rent a van to take the wheels in.

In the end it was a long bus ride. The group arrived in Melbourne at a little past 5:00 AM. I had tried to get as much sleep on the bus as I could, but I was still tired and more than a little bit stiff. I got my bike together and wasn't sure what to do. Someone from the Melbourne District Messenger Association had arranged for a room at the hostel across the street. That was perfect for me. A small cadre of about 6 of us went over there and crashed. 


CMWC 2015 - Group Ride - Day 3

Date: Wednesday April 1st, 2016
Distance: 95 miles
Song of the Day: Soldier of Fortune - Thin Lizzy

The countryside continued to be rolling. My legs were getting tired on the long climbs. I was trying to remember doing this for days and days with a heavy bike. I don't know how I did it. It didn't help my muscles were still aching from the day before.

The one thing that helped was the landscape. It was gorgeous. It was the kind of Australian landscapes you see in the movies. Large green pastures with cattle or sheep. Little woods with green trees in them. It was a good distraction from my tired legs.

I spent most of the day just cruising on my own though. Having a good time. I was getting a little stressed out that it was taking so long, or that I was going slowly. But then I remembered that I had all the time in the world. I also found that closer to sunset things became much easier. I had forgotten my on advice. On my African tour I would take a nap between 2:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon. There wasn't much point to biking in the hottest part of the day. So as things cooled down I started going faster. It was also a beautiful time to ride. The sky was turning all the gorgeous shades of the rainbow.

I arrived at the camp site just as it was getting dark. I just wanted to take a shower, but I was convinced to go swimming. That was a much better decision. I have never been swimming in the ocean by moonlight.

Getting back to camp I got fed, which was the best thing ever. Then we watched Patty, Maxi, and Morgan get their hair chopped into interesting shapes. I don't think I have ever seen so many people excited about watching hair get cut. Those guys are rad. Thanks Maka for cutting hair.

Then back to the ocean. About 30 of us went to a different beach. Still spectacular and beautiful though. The group played in the surf under an almost full moon. What a fantastic night. There are so many place in the world that are so wonderful and amazing. Most of them you will never plan on going, but they are out their all the same. I love seeing where life will take you.

We ended the night sitting around the fire. Lady Sara was holding court and getting everyone to “pop their bonnet”. Legend. 


CMWC 2015 - Group Ride - Day 2

Date: Tuesday March 31st, 2015
Distance: 84 Miles
Song of the Day: Demon-Destroyer - Fey Moth

By the time I got up and the tent pulled down our lovely hostess had breakfast ready. Bacon and eggs. Cereal. Toast. Juice. Thank you, Sara.

I got connected to the fast group in the morning again. We took a great bike path along the ocean. It was beautiful. Green bluffs over a blue sea crashing on white sandy beaches.

Then I got disconnected from that group and went off with “Pub Squad”. We stopped at a pub before 11:00 AM for a beer. (I am on Holiday, so it is okay.) It was also the birthday for one of the Sydney messengers. Happy Birthday Waffles!

The rest of the day was a lot of rolling hills. Long climbs and lots of steep descents. Those would have been better if they didn't have a tendency for the shoulder to disappear at the worst times. Much of the traffic around here buzzes by within inches even when you are on the shoulder. But we made it through without much problem.

By the end of the day we were climbing through some amazing country. Being able to look out and see how amazing everything was around me really helped take my mind off the miles and miles of cranking up hill. By the time we got to the end, I was smashing it again.

We stopped in at some friends of the Sydney couriers. Jamie runs a company called Skin Grows Back. They make cool bags and accessories, and are also big in supporting the messenger scene. I don't know if they really knew what they were in for though. Having about 70 dirty cyclists coming to eat all the food (twice), run them out of hot water, and sleep in every flat space in their house and yard. But it didn't seem to phase them. They were the perfect hosts. Thank you Kat and Jamie.

They even told us how to get down the saltwater lake nearby to go for a dip. Swimming felt so good after a long day on the road.


CMWC 2015 - Group Ride - Day 1

Date: Monday March 30th, 2015
Distance: 67 miles
Song of the Day: Behind Blue Eyes - The Who

The meetup for the ride to Melbourne started at Wicks Park in southwest Sydney. As I was arriving another group showed up. We were the only ones there. The rest trickled in over the next hour. That seems to be a theme with this group.

While we were waiting though it started to rain. I didn't mind so much at first. I think I have proven that I am not water soluble. But when it really started coming down, that was getting annoying. Plus I forgot that my sleeping bag was just sitting out. I got to it before things got too wet, but it was a bit damp. I hoped it would dry before that night. (It did.)

Eventually we did get going, but it was just down the road to the train station. We took the train about 20 minutes out of town. By the time we got off the train it wasn't even wet on the ground. The group screamed down the highway for about 10 miles. There was a halt for about 5 minutes, then everyone took off again.

This time we were off the highway, which was great. We were also descending some really great curvy roads. That was even better. It was a bit of up and down all day though.

We stopped for lunch at a cliff overlooking the pacific. It was a beautiful spot. Even better since it was at the top of a hill. (I always try to stop at the top of a hill for lunch. Digesting makes me sluggish, so it is nice to have a decent to warm up with.) And what a decent it was. Super curvy. Super fast. Super fun.

I finished the day riding with the fast crew. Which also turned out to be the getting lost crew. So we showed up a bit late to the camping spot.

Lady Sara (Smokin' Joe's girlfriend) and Maria got things organized and dinner ready for us. That was awesome. I really can't thank them enough, but I tried by helping to clean up. I finished the night hanging out around a campfire we a bunch of awesome people.


Sydney Pre-Event - Day 3

Date: Sunday March 29th, 2015
Distance: 30 miles 
Song of the Day: Weekend Wars -Deep Sea Diver

On my last trip to Sydney I tried to explore the beaches the city had to offer. I thought the best beach was Bronte. It was the Goldilocks beach. Bondi is too big. Tanarama is too small. Bronte is just right. So my goal for the morning was to go back and play in the surf.

Getting over there wasn't too bad. But I did accidentally get on a motorway for a bit. Then I got lost and ended up chasing down a couple of hills along the coast. By the time I got to the beach I was ready for a nice refreshing swim.

Bronte itself was just like I remembered it.
A small cove. A few hundred meters of sandy beach. A beautiful sky and cool, blue, pacific water. I did forget about the current though. I got in the water and shortly found myself drifting southward. Right. I forget oceans work differently from lakes sometimes.

From Bronte I rode over to Pyromont. I guess it used to be in the heart of the in industrial docks. Now all of that work has gone to Port Botany. So there is now a nice park there. Just like the day before there were only a few messengers there at the start, the rest dribbling in over the next couple of hours.

Photo courtesy of Jambi-Jambi
They did (eventually) bring a ramp and a bike to jump into the harbor. Yes, I gave it a go. It is quite exhilarating. We also played some cricket. I haven't done that since my time in London. This was much more low key though. We were just playing with a tennis ball. The wickets were just a cardboard box with empty beers bottles in them. I forgot how fun it is. I did pretty well too. I was able to bat a four and then a six before I got out on a wicked bounce. It was a blast. (Also, if you don't know how cricket works, I would be happy to explain what I know to you.)

Photo courtesy of Jambi-Jambi
We finished the night back at Joe's place watching Australia play New Zealand in the International Cricket Cup. Good times. 


Sydney Pre-Event - Day 2

Date: Saturday March 28th, 2015.
Distance: 22 miles
Song of the Day: What the World Needs Now is Love - Burt Bacharach (I think everyone who went to Milson's Point got this stuck in their head at some point.)

This morning was great. Slow and relaxing. I was hanging out with the Berlin Crüe that I am staying will at the empty flat. We went out for brunch and just sat around talking for a while. They are really cool. It made me really want to visit  Berlin.

Around noon I headed out for Milson's point. That is under the north side of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. When I arrived there were only five other people there. Slowly the group started to trickle in. Eventually we had about seventy bike messengers hanging out.

The Sydney Bike Messenger Association started the Pre-Event competition there. At registration we had all been assigned a team. Bogans, Westies, or Yabbos. (The Sydney guys told us this was a bit like "redneck" or "hick".) I was on the Yabbos. We had team foot down. Then individual foot down. Next was telling jokes while doing a track stand. Teams were awarded points for jokes told while track standing. Finally was the skid contest disaster. It was all pretty fun to watch.

It was also a great place to be. I keep saying how beautiful Sydney is. I can't
express that enough. From the park under the bridge you could see the city and the opera house. The sun was out. The trees were green. It felt good just to be alive.

After that one of the girls invited some of us over to Joe's place since it had a pool, a hot tub, and a sauna. Now that is a good way to relax at the end of a day. We did kinda screw up when leaving the pool though. Apparently when the elevator says that it only takes 14 people, 17 people is actually too many. It kinda broke after we were in it. It was stuck and wouldn't go. The elevator company had to be called to reset it. Whoops. Oh well. It was too late to whine about it. So we left for the after event party. It was at a warehouse in southwest Sydney. I spent most of the night dancing around with the Berlin Crüe.


Sydney Pre-Event - Day 1

Date: Friday March 27th, 2015
Distance: 27 mile
Song of the Day:  Ripe - Ben Lee

It took thirty nine hours of travel, 27 of that in the air, and stops in three different airports to get to Sydney, but I arrived at half past ten in the morning on Friday.

Upon arriving I put my bike together even before leaving customs inspection. The inspector was briefly confused on how the bike arrived in that state. I assured him that I had just put all the pieces back together and he let me go without any further questions.

I went out to the road and took off. I think this is the six time I have biked away from the airport. To hell with renting a car, or taking a taxi. Riding a bike from the airport is way better. It is the only way to fly.

I headed into the downtown area. It had been almost a decade since the last time I was in Sydney. It is strange what things come back to you. Certain places dredged up memories from the mental sediment. I was uncovering things long forgotten like a neural archeologist. I had seen Sydney in a totally different way. I was there for different reasons and I had different perspective on life. It is strange to think of that person as me. Memories are a bit like a ghost of your past self. Weird.

Anyway, my real issue was I didn't know where exactly I was going. I was not too concerned. This is my vacation. I was not going to get worried about the little details. I went to Hyde Park where people were supposed to be gathering. I didn't see a big group of bikes though.

It was just after noon, so the meetup might be later. I took a ride down to the harbor. Looked at the opera house, and the harbor bridge. I will say, Sydney is a beautiful city. Some of the best views are from the botanical garden. At that point I was getting hungry, so I went to find lunch.

While eating my lunch I saw a bike messenger. I asked him if he knew about the event. He didn't know the details, but sent me to the bottom of Martin Place. I guess that is a hangout for the local Sydney bike messengers. It wasn't much. Just a few stone steps on the side of the plaza. It wasn't by a bike shop or dispatch office. It was centrally located though. I was still confused why that spot exactly though. The best reason the messengers there gave me was that the best looking women in town went by all day long.

From there I got directions to where people were going to be at Hyde park. One of the guys, Tony, offered to ride up there with me. There were only two other riders there when I arrived. As the afternoon wore on more and more cyclists showed up. Eventually there were forty or more people there.

I got a location on where the registration was. Just before sunset we headed over there. I got my housing set. One of the Sydney messengers, Smokin' Joe, had an apartment nearby that was vacant at the moment. I was going to be staying there with a bunch of German messengers. Cool.

I was able to drop my gear and get back in time for the start of the alley cat. There were about a dozen checkpoints across the core of the city. One was on the other side of the harbor bridge. What a wonderful way to get out and learn the city. Just fantastic. Well, mostly. I got lost after the third checkpoint trying to take a shortcut. (I should know by now that taking the shortcut in a race never works out the way I want it to.) I got into the last checkpoint just as the guy was leaving. That puts me right about dead last. Still, I had a total blast. I love tearing across a city on a bike. The race was a good excuse to explore and see the sights.

To cap the night off the group headed over to the “Lobster Shack” in the west suburbs of Sydney. It was just the house for a couple of the messengers in the area. Well, more like hippie commune than house. It was lots of fun though.

I wish I could express in words how awesome the whole day was. Meeting new people. Exploring new places. These are things I am not going to ever forget. This is what really living is all about.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Dalles Mountain 60

Date:  March 14th, 2015
Distance: 59 miles
Song of the Day: Walking on a Wire - Lost Lander

A few weeks back my friend Fat Rob started talking about the Dalles Mountain 60. I guess he has done it the last few years. The year he convinced a bunch of us to head out there as well. So after work on Friday I picked up another friend and drove out to The Dalles. In all we had eight people from Point83 out there.

Saturday morning was wet, but clearing. I was shocked by how many people there were at the start. Not too bad for a ride that isn't being supported an any way.

People started heading down the road just after 10:00 AM. The wet ground and general lack of fenders meant it started out kinda gross. We crossed over the Columbia into Washington. Oddly, I think this may be the first time I have crossed a state border on a bike.

Things started to get really fun as we got off the paved road. The route lead up up a "mountain". It even started to get sunny. Looking down from the bluff I could see the valley and river below. I couldn't help but compare it to my time in Southern Uganda. Dirt roads and steep climbs. I loved it. I just cranked up that hill. I ended up at the top a good ten minutes before the rest of my crew.

I waited for a little bit there, but it was windy and started raining again. When Rob and Torrey showed I took off with them. Coming down the back side was fun, but it did get a bit sketchy. Most of the time I was pretty stable, but there were a few patches of loose gravel. It makes me a bit nervous when I can feel my tires gravel surfing.

At the bottom we got back onto the paved roads. The wind turbines were pointed our direction so I knew it was blowing my way. I was cruising at almost 30 without really working.

To get back down to the river we took the Maryhill Loops. This was a true joy. Well paved road. Lots of tight turns, but a gentle grade. It made it easy to just zoom down it. Super awesome. I thought about going back and doing it again.

We also stopped a the Stonehenge monument out there and had some food. Then crossed the river and stopped for more food. We did a lot of waiting to get the group back together.

Heading back to The Dalles we were now facing the wind though. We did some good fast lines down the highway though. The route takes a left to go to the top of the bluff on the Oregon side. Two miles of double digit grades back on dirt roads. I was able to bike the whole thing, despite spinning out a lot. It wasn't much faster than the other guys who just got off and walked though.

Doing the climb was well worth it though. We just cruised along the ridge overlooking the Columbia. Windy, sure, but great views.

The last bit of pavement into town was great. Sure, it was still into a headwind, but it was a bit downhill so it seemed to even itself out.

All in all I had a fantastic time. I love getting out to do new adventures, bike, and hang out with cool people. This was awesome.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Minibike Winter 2015 - Ben Hurt Bike Chariot War

For over a month now I have been working on a bike chariot. This was all in preparation for Portland's Minibike Winter 2015. It is almost a week of stuff culminating in the Zoo Bomb on Sunday. One of the butter events is the Ben Hurt bike chariot war on Saturday. All in all I was pretty excited.

I got into Portland on Friday afternoon and spent a lot of that night biking around. Went up to the Sanctuary and came back via the Zoo Bomb route. Then got lost on the way to the party. Eventually found it on the other side of the river. A ton of people hanging out around a big pallet fire under a freeway bridge. I love that this is a thing that happens.

Saturday I met up with the rest of the crew and put the finishing touches on the chariot. I also bought some shin guards which I would be very thankful for later. The meetup for the chariot war was not the battlefield itself. I think that was mostly because the event is not really sanctioned by any sort of government agency. So we hung out for a while waiting for the thing to really get going. When it did the whole mass of people, and there were a couple hundred people, rode off to a place to skirmish in peace.

The location turned out to be under a freeway again in an industrial part of town. It took some times to get things ordered and everyone set to go. Soon enough the goons running it were able to get the battle going. Remember I say battle, because this wasn't a race. The goal wasn't to complete some number of laps. The goal was to still be holding onto your chariot at the end of the race.

I had expected things to get violent pretty quickly, but as the race started everything was actually pretty calm. My partner and I did one lap with no real interference. After that things went down hill. Chariots would crash into each other and the various participants would try to yank opponents off their contraptions. Imagine a rugby match held on a tangle of bicycles. One girl sliced her finger open on the chainring on my bike. It was far more brutal a contest than I was expecting, but not in the way I thought.

Besides the other teams competing their was a bicycle chariot hot tub. Whichwas amazing and served no purpose whatsoever. Then again, the whole contest is a crazy idea in the first place, so what is wrong with a bit more chaos? Speaking of chaos, the crowd isn't just sitting their. They are actively participating in the event by throwing things into the arena. So most of the time random fireworks are going off. I got hit in the back of the helmet with an egg. The competitors were also being showered with all sorts of stuff. Water. Shaving cream. Baby powder. I even got splattered a few times with chilli. Yes, someone on the sideline had about 2 gallons of chilli and was using a ladle to toss it into the ring. Finally, there was glitter. Yep, glitter. With the help of some sweat, dirt, and chilli, it stuck to everything. I have not been that gross for a long time.

In spite of this, my team did pretty well at avoiding most of the major entanglements. I was happy to let others winnow down the contestants. We ended up being part of the last three teams still competing. I was knocked pretty much off my bike by one guy but managed to hold on with one hand. In the process my charioteer was able to force him off the bike bringing it down to two teams.

Or so you would think. The guy who had been pushed off started yelling at me that he had gotten me off the bike first. Which he hadn't. So then he just tackled me. Frankly I was a little confused by the whole interaction. I mean, at least one of us was no longer competing right? So what as the point? After a little while of being pushed into the ground the other guy gave up. Now there really are only two teams left. The other team in question was led by the girl who had sliced her finger open already. I was worried that someone, and it wasn't that unlikely the person would be me, would be seriously injured. Frankly by that point I was also mentally pretty well finished. I got off my bike and congratulated the other team on their victory.

It was one hell of an event. Like nothing I had ever done before. I am glad I could have been a part of it, but I am also glad I made it out with nothing more than a few scrapes and bruises.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

King and Queen of the Ravine

Another race! This time Rob put on his annual King and Queen of the Ravine race. It is a simple route. Three laps around Ravenna Park, but to complete the lap each contestant has to consume a beverage of their choice. This is what it looked like:
I guess you can see what most people chose as their drink of choice. Mine is the one with the milk...

The race started out really well. I did a lap before the race just to check it out. I am glad I did.  I was pretty close to the front at the begining and watched Ben slide out around the first sharp corner. After that I kept up pretty well, in maybe 5th place the first two laps.

The third lap was my undoing though. I knew I was losing tire pressure, but I thought it would hold for the last one. It didn't. At the bottom of the first hill I was riding on rubber. At first I thought I had a pinch flat, but after a quick inspection it was a thumb tack. Where the hell did I get a thumb tack? Remembering I had my CO2 canister, I got to changing the tube. I had the new tube all set up when I remembered that I had given the canister away a few weeks previous. Knowing that everyone was finishing up by now, I hoofed it back up the hill to get my pump. I was going to finish the race at least. When I got their I found out that my tube wouldn't hold air. Argh. I borrowed a patch kit and got the tube fixed. I rode my last lap and got back just as Rob was announcing the winners. Oh well, I would rather be DFL than  DNF.

Besides winning isn't really the point. The real point was to race and hang out with friends. I believe I accomplished both.