28 July, 2007

Hanging w/ Grant in El Paso (county, that is)-revised

woa. kenny. you missed a spankin' good time brah. we were thinking positive thoughts of you though on today's ride. when i mapquested grant's address, it's officially 97 miles door to door. that's all right though, it was my turn to go his haunts. here's the dealio with grant: i've known grant since the late 80's from our hometown of plano, tx. plano, is a story in and of itself really. anyhoo, we were roommates in college (hook 'em horns muhfuh!), lived in north austin (across the street from the state parole board), on a street called shoal creek, teammates on the plano schwinn cycling team and at the university of texas (hook 'em horns again muhfuh!-dats right), and even taught at the same school in plano. he, social studies; me, science. quite a long and storied past, but i digress...
right outside his door there's a whole series of trails were we can dump ourselves into and ride to some pretty spectacular topography with picture postcard vistas all around us. so we climb up to buckhorn, and he shows me some exceptional views like helen hunt waterfall and rampart range. buckhorn's scarily like the the scree fields at the top of the firecracker 50 singletrack. it's like a tightroping act, here's why. grant says the trail is pulverized granite and it's very scree-like, so any little bobble can lead your tire to some traction breaking rough which can take you over the edge if there're drop offs. the key is to go fast uphill and look where you want to go because if you slow down, you increase your chance to vacillate your handlebars where it can place your front tire in very loose gravel. grant's flying uphill (he's getting fit to race the leadville 100) and i'm working pretty hard just to stay in contact with him. i rarely put it in my granny, mostly my middle. once we get to the top of buckhorn we take some pix of this amazing vista. at the top are some cyclists who complain of motocrossers ehfing up the singletrack. grant's a pretty non-confrontational guy except when it comes to cycling. so he tell's the guy to pipe down because it's the moto-xers that maintain the trails in this here parts. grant warns me the downhill's pretty loose at some places, so we hit it pointing down. sure enough we're flying and any deviation off the packed gravel and my front tire's washing with it's own agenda. this is dangerous because there's a cliff off to my left. i spy grant's line and copy him to a tee. my skiing background gives me a tendency to g.s. turn it to scrape off speed with a natural turn without hitting the brakes. in this loose stuff, it just makes the front tire go squirrely. i lose it a couple of times and i throw out my inside leg to avoid smacking the ground. i hit some woop-de-doos and i get the giggles because on the apexes my stomach gets weightless and it makes me laugh in fits. nutty funny.
grant says this downhill's called jacks (upper or lower or something close to that). again it's like the firecracker without the babyheads.
our next singletrack's up palmer. incidentally grant climbs like a billy goat and we know the physiological, background reason why. insert harp-type music here, reminiscent of earlier times...
the summers in austin were spent scrounging for money to pay our apartment's rent. since we were cat a racers-grant thinks i sandbagged the cat b's-the graduate student friends we knew in the human physiology dept. were always asking the cyclists to be their guinea pigs in figuring out physiological triggers. we participated in a tour de france study where shaklee (a sports specific, dietetically nutritional l.l.c) was testing their energy drink. we had to ride a total of three hours (one day a week for a month) in various levels of intensity relative to our vo2 max (the way our body utilizes oxygen per kilogram body mass). the science behind it was, to see how our slow-twitch muscles retained glucose (clear=no glucose, dark-ish means glucose retention), during aerobic/anaerobic events (hence the 'tour' study). so, you ask, how do they sample our fast and slow twitch muscles? well, they biopsy a pea-six amount from our vastus lateralis during the ride and physically count, under a microscope (then we hop on the bike and finish the regimen). witnessing our own biopsy was more unbelievable than someone telling us we were getting a biopsy. they paid us for this. the nutty part was the scalpel they used to tease/cut our faschia in front of the lateralis was the same one in my dissection kit (i bought a nice one for my a and p classes). grant has the distinction of having mostly slow-twitch muscles; me, split fairly even between fast and slow-twitch. this translates-on rides-to grant is essentially a lung with the metabolism of a kangaroo rat. on endurance rides with him, i have to eat and eat and eat (and drink) in order to match his intensity (which on this day i couldn't). fast forward...now!...
he rides away from me at palmer and i ride at tempo so as not to be too far back. we bust a u-turn and shred it on the downs to keep it at three hours and for me to stave off mr. bonks. we hit this place called the "chutes" where it's a burmed, somewhat technical at speed, singletrack-like a luge course. the centrifugal force on the berms made the bikes, if you were crankin' it, ride the singletrack at some pretty obtuse angles. fast and nutty it was, thrilling mostly. total ride time was three and a quarter hours. for me that was good, because there were almost no rests and i was drilling it in the middle ring trying to keep up with him on the ups. wow. what a great ride. i showered, said my goodbyes to their largess' and headed back home to celebrate my mother in-law's birthday.
thanks grant and christina and next time kenny....

24 July, 2007

Last Day at Tahoe

it doesn't bode well for me when it rains on the last day. we planned the route i took to squaw for today on the truckee recreational trail (pictured). we brought all our bikes with us, but we didn't think maura would make the 10-mile round trip so we rented a 2-kid trailer and attached it to my yeti. it started to rain sure enough, but it didn't stop our ride. i must admit though, there's nothing more mentally ill than starting a ride in the rain. i don't mind if it rains on us when we're out there but before? booohooo.
maricel was a trooper and her new bike has 6 gears and a high-low chainring. on the way back i tried to teach her when to shift and she was awesome. she rode the whole ten miles with nary a complaint. at the end though, she said that her legs felt pretty "rubbery". she's awesome. may i add that maura and mason fought like cats behind me in the trailer. i had to ignore them because i didn't want their foolishness to ruin my ride.
to end this great, and last day on holiday, we decompressed at commons beach (pictured), right there in lovely tahoe city. the girls went shopping and i watched the kids play in the water and playground. they played for at least 3 hours and it's funny watching little people interact with other little people. there's kind of a hierarchy that's there. they definitely don't like whiners. for example, maricel and maura can knock off some monkey bars, but when a whiner needs help and whines for attention, the group pretty much ignores them. there was also this big rock where kids can free climb. what a great collection of objects for kids to be kids. a climbing rock, an elaborate swing-monkeybar-two-tiered slides-platform thingy. the grand finale was when i put both girls on one swing (facing each other) and pushed them so hard up in the air all they did was laugh, laugh, and laugh.
on our way back home to colorful colorado, we passed through elko, nv. it brought back fond memories of when kenny and i drove his corvette from reno to denver.

22 July, 2007

Tenzing Daddy

when they were younger, it was conceivable to do hikes 'round three or so hours in fairly technical terrain. nowadays, with mason close to 30 pounds, two hours of mildly technical terrain's pretty much all i can handle. the hardest part is taking off and putting the kid kelty (with mason) on. next year, though, i'll be damned if i'm backpacking with any of my urchins on my back. i considered a b.o.b. tricycle/babyjogger, but the wheel width's so narrow i've seen people dump it with their kids in it.
next year, it'll probably be shorter hikes with all three busting out some bipedalism with varying degrees of proficiency. my shoulder's are screaming every now and again when i hit the two hour mark; but, the trade-off's checking out things in awe with 10 brand new eyes.
this picture's of mason and me (and the rest of team m, not pictured) hiking cascade falls on our first, true day in the desolation wilderness of lake tahoe.

21 July, 2007

Lake Tahoe, Day Four

this morning was dedicated to mountain biking-shweeet! so i consult the handy-dandy guide book to see how to ride to squaw valley, home of the 1960 winter (duh) olympics. lo and behold there's a dedicated bike trail called the truckee recreational trail. 4.9 miles from tahoe city to squaw. i don the monkey suit (my teammates refer to it as the barney costume due to it's garish displays of purple-ouch!) and kick on down highway 89 to tahoe city onwards to sqizzy-squaw. it follows the truckee river which originates in tahoe city now being controlled by a dam. the trail's filled with families cycling so i say something encouraging as i pedal on by them. in the motherland-colorado-i'm assuming most ski areas are open to mountain bikers; therefore, california ski areas must be too. i get to the base at squaw and it's eerily devoid of any cycling activity. i spy a nice, juicy trail heading upwards and i ask a worker bee if this trail hooks up with a maintenance road to the top. he replies, "there hasn't been any mountain biking here for the past 5 years ever since a cyclist hurt himself pretty bad." back in my mind i hear the charlie brown wahhhhh, wahhhhh, wahhhhhh whenever charlie self-mulliganed. how LAY-YUM is that!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i was so psyched to tear some squaw valley terrain up and now this?! it's like, when you're supremely hungry, ordering a nice, juicy, veggie burrito and hunkering down on it and finding out it's a garlic, mayonnaise, and tapetum lucidum (it's what causes light to bounce from certain mammals' eyes and allows them wicked night vision) from the eye-balls of bovines-flavored. incidentally, the wahhhhh, wahhhhhhh, wahhhhhh sound it a trumpet (or coronet) blasting onto a the surface of water (as if in a fishbowl). the sound waves are muted because it's randomly bouncing off the surface of the water (due to water's adhesive and cohesive forces, and yes, i'm a geek). from that point on, my reptilian brain stem was in a f-bomb tape loop, slowly stewing and fermenting, poisoning my mellow-self, ready to pop and unleash holeee verbal hell if someone were to ask me what i'm doing here with a bike.
i head back to tahoe city, still in disbelief, go back up the granlibakken resort and do yesterday's ride in reverse. to spite squaw resorts, i did not buy a cheesy, touristy cotton-poly blend t-shirt. so there squaw valley wankers!
hooked up with my ass-kicking family and decompressed at meek's beach. the rains fell and we spontaneously decided to make a field trip to south tahoe, home of the '07 fires, heavenly ski resort (owned by vail and associates), and gambling. on the way there, highway 89 went on a ridge temporarily and on either side we saw lake tahoe on the left, and cascade and fallen leaf lakes (pictured). it was visually stunning and for i got a picosecond's worth of vertigo. strange.
at s. tahoe i scored a cheesy, touristy, cotton-poly blend t-shirt with characters assembled in this sequence, going left to right, h-e-a-v-e-n-l-y displayed where one's pectoral muscles would go. since this joint was owned by vail and associates it was formulaicly touristy yet mildly enjoyable (kinda like your date on ketamine). did you know, that at homewood resort kids ski free if they're less than or equal to 10 years of age? betcha didn't know that...

19 July, 2007

Lake Tahoe, Day Three

there are so many state parks here with camping that there's always plenty of places for people to leisurely and inexpensively enjoy lake tahoe without that yosemite-esque carnival atmosphere; and, the maintenance in these areas are nearly impeccable. you go to state lake park near the dallas, texas area there'll be broken glass in the bathrooms, litter strewn hither and yon, and you'd be surrounded by a bunch of drunk yahoos to boot. anyhoo, our handy-dandy guide book said that d.l. bliss state park has great beach front in lester beach; and, it's the beginning of the rubicon (hiking not the 4wd) trail. the sand at the beaches here is really coarsely ground, pulverized rocks; and for me, overtime it hurts my green feet (boo-hoo)when i walk barefoot on it (in the water as well). the beaches here have nenes (geese) walking around with little fear of humans. in fact, when i was pulling the girls on their floaties, a duck was grooming itself right near us. i gently touched its wing to say, "hello!" it jumped, and maricel and i giggled. i goosed a goose.
okay, the trail. rubicon trail ends at emerald bay. on its shores there's a historical landmark, a house, called vikingsholm. the original owners back in the '40s used old school scandinavian engineering to build vikingsholm. for instance, it has thatched, turfed roof without any nails keeping everything together. check out the topmost pic. in-between lester beach and vikingsholm we would also see: a lighthouse, rubicon point, and calawee cove-a smallish, sandy cove with less of a crowd there. the little bay with the tree in the background's one perspective of calawee cove; the polarized shot looking out towards the lake's another perspective. it's a 4 miler one-way to vikingsholm so we're pushing our timely luck with tenzing daddy portaging mason. we had to ask grandpa to watch the girls on the beach when we went hiking, of course he said, "yes", so off we go for about 2.5 hours, roundtrip. while hiking, the girls were completely content building sandcastles and jumping in the cold water to cool off (and repeating when necessary). calawee cove was picturesque and we made a mental note to hang out there later in the week. rubicon point was gorgeous too and i took a picture of it. from the pictures, it's the big dead tree in the foreground. the lighthouse should've been called the outhouse-it was lame (say lame, using two syllables!)!
after the beach, i went on a solo mountain bike ride on the tahoe rim trail (trt). not the whole loop but the part that started near tahoe pines. the trt was kind of technical and i took skip's advice and the route advice of a bike mechanic in a store called cyclepaths for my sub-2h ride. the ascent from tahoe pines led me to a vista called alpine meadows-a scenic, high alpine forest (with nobody there!). it was spooky quiet and super lush with this great light coming in from the trees' canopies. gorgeous. so i keep taking right handers and you really can't get lost out here-any downhill leads to the lake. so i'm middle-ringing the trail (it's comparable to riding at night, it's a hyper-alert olfactory situation where the legs pedal tirelessly) and geeking at everything. i see a trail marker for tahoe city, 3 miles it says. yup, 3 miles of downhill. it was sweet (again, there's nobody out here)! it dumps me into a private, quasi-posh tennis/ski club called granlibakken. here i tuck into my mt. aero position to take advantage of the downhill, paved streets to take me back to highway 89. wow!
before the in-laws go out for dinner, they agree to watch mason for a wee bit, so the remaining team m go on a bike ride (yup, maricel and maura ride now) to sugar pine point state park. there's endless, paved, two-way bike lanes here so we hop on the trail from our b&b to the sugar pine. at sugar pine, the ehrman mansion overlooks lake tahoe with a medium-lengthed pier going over the lake. when we arrive, it's twilight so the lake seems like it's glowing this faint, blue hue and nobody's on the pier. we walk out and you can see lake's bottom. it's surrealy transparent with this bluish tint, similar to the blue you see on glaciers. man, here's team m just soaking up this beautiful moment. nobody's talking and there's this electric hush around us we're feeling each other's camaraderie, familial bond-energy. it was downright spiritual, it was. you only feel like this in the inside maybe 10 times in a lifetime if you're lucky...

16 July, 2007

Lake Tahoe, Day Two

well, it's the seventh day of the seventh month in the year of our lord 2007 years after his immaculate conception (which i learned can happen after watching a real cool movie: quinceneara). supposed to be the luckiest day of the year if you're into that kind of shizzle. ite, i guess i felt pretty lucky and in awe being in such beautiful scenery with my family and in-laws.
we-maricel, mason on my back riding inside a kid kelty, grandma, melissa, and maura-hiked cascade creek falls & melissa, mason, and i hiked granite lake. granite lake trail, which was a grunt of a hike, needed a wilderness permit to enter the desolation wilderness area, but we didn't bother. both trails hovered around 7-8000 feet in elevation. both provided postcard perfect views of emerald bay, cascade lake, and fallen leaf lake. there was an art show in town for the weekend and my beautiful girls scored on some handblown (if you think about it, it's from the mouth actually), glass charms for their necklaces and we-mike and melissa-scored on a handmade pottery-thing in the form of a butter dish. sounds crazy i know, but i'm a discriminating butter dish kinda dad. at the end of each day, melissa and i are washing down the remnants of our dinners with chilled sierra nevada porter in a proper glass made of-you guessed it-glass, still in disbelief and wonderment of the majestic things we're witnessing here at lake tahoe. my in-laws go out to eat leaving team m some quiet, de-briefing, decompressing, family, dinnertime. these are our actual photos of granite lake, emerald bay, and cascade lake, from top to bottom. i think the pink-ish hue in the sky is particulate matter refracting pink lightwaves of the visible roy g. biv spectrum due to the recent forest fires; or, my camera sucks, but i'd like to think it's the former...

Lake Tahoe (West Shore=Best Shore)

wow. you know, when people mention california to me having both mountains and large bodies of water, nothing but indifference filters into my noggin'. i've been there several times and they were all enjoyable. san francisco, santa cruz, boulder creek, yakima, mission viejo, rancho santa margharita (sp?), irvine, los angeles, orange county, fresno (yikes!), bakersfield (double yikes!!) but nothing moved me more than the california-side of lake tahoe. now, the hype equals what i'm witnessing. it wasn't at all what i was expecting, and, as usual, it was my beautiful wife melissa who got the ball rolling for this holiday.
let me say, there's a mental tranquility about road tripping in a quality, reliable auto. between the two of us (melissa and moi), we've procured some fine, european rides. for instance we've owned an ml 430 , an s6 avant, and an a6 avant. the mercedes was fine except when the power steering pump shi* the bed in glenwood (via aspen); and other than making freshly squeezed lemon juice, the audi s6 was, at best, adequate. the a6 gave me the littlest grief. when it was running on all 5 pistons she roared like a finely tuned, turbo-charged lion, but i would never have trusted it on a trip outside of colorado. okay back to the point, melissa has owned one 4runner previous to her current 4runner and it's nothing but uber-reliable (like the way i juxtapositioned a deutsche term referring to a japanese auto?). 100+ temps in nevada with 4 bikes, 5 hominids, and everything but the kitchen sink inside and out she kept delivering whatever our right foot wished. great ride, inside and out.
we (in-laws included) could've done it on a single trip but with kids we split it in two days. it's about 1000 miles, one-way.
the first night was in ely, nv. where, incidentally my son's big toenail fell off. enough said. we arrived in tahoma (sandwiched between meeks and homewood) early evening on the 5th, in time to enjoy a wine and cheese tasting at our b and b. i probably embarrassed melissa since i was so hungry it became a wine and cheese sam's club buffet for my starvin' marvin self. we met some interesting characters there. first was an entrepreneur named john (and his wife) and a workhand at the b&b named skip. john was the gregarious, mild dosage, know-it-all, dude dispensing his biased information useful or not, completely unsolicited to anyone willing to listen or not. if you would've asked him a question he would've pontificated a dissertation free of spite but dripping of sanctimonious testimony. argh. i smiled, but inside my tympanic membranes were self-perforating. what put his karma in check was my son mason taking his daughter's, abigail, playthings and making her cry that annoying i'm-really-not-hurting-cry-but-some-enabling-parent-please-help-me-beaugard-my-erstwhile-playthings-from-this-y-chromosome-possessor cry. yeah mason (okay, i'm supposed to the good parent?)!
once we check into our cottage, bob (my father in-law) and i check out homewood for groceries and bask in the newness of being somewhere completely different. in town, i buy a duvel ale for later consumption with melissa for celebratory purposes. if y'all have never drank any trappiste ale concoction(s), truly you're not putting/using your olfactory bulbs to full use (it's like the volume control knob going to eleven versus ten). if you're a beer snob, you drink it in a proper belgian, wide-mouthed ale glass, wide enough for this unfiltered nectar made from monks to exhale. i'd drink pbr in a pinch too, so don't think i'm a beer snob (okay, i am). here's a picture of the interior of our "cottage". pretty isn't it? obviously the snow picture is of said cabin's exterior except in the winter.

04 July, 2007

The Firecracker 50 (revised)

yeauh! kenny, grant, and i raced the 50 today. one word: pain. okay here's how it unfolded. the racer's are also participants in the parade. back in the day it was just one big group; but this event's so huge (it's also a national qualifier for marathon mountain biking national chump and world's qualifier), we had to start in waves according to our categories. that meant i didn't get to ride with my teammates jared, lance, and kenny (who's also my bud-row), and my college roommate, grant. my category's sport men 40-49. i think i was the only doofus in my category who rode a hardtail. it was neutral start and attendance of the parade i think (per the announcer) was 5k. it was awesome. kids were lined up gauntlet-style with their hands out to sideways-five us, the racers. it was cool. once the lead vehicle pulled over, the mayhem started. normal strategy is to go chilly-chill first lap then turn on the afterburners come lap 2. i was feeling good and i went faster than i should've on the first lap. walked a wee bit before the scree field and the super cold snow melt making up the creek crossings. hoowee was it cold! it woke me up and made my feet hurt when you pedal with wet feet on a carbon footbed for 5.5 hours. on the scree downhill the singletrack was so skinny that if you went over, you weren't going to stop anytime soon. it was like balancing on the high wire. any little bobble would be kinda fatal or at the very least, painful and expensive. lap two comes 'round and i'm in survival mode. i shoot hate rays out of my eyes on the one lappers that go blazing past me in clean kits whereas all the two lappers are filthy with mud and dust. so a fifth of the way up on the second lap i hear somebody doing a rawhide, round'em up yeehaw. it's my complicitor kenny telling me to get on the train. the train for the laypeople out there is a term where you can sit-in while people (other than yourself) is yanking the pace along and you can motorpace/draft off of them free of momentary guilt (to rest a wee bit) to increase your speed (eventually you'll have to pull...). the train is different from the bus. the bus refers to a group of people off the back (not in the lead group) that forms a gaggle for the sake of survival (e.g. the group of sprinters in the tour de france who can't hang with the climbers-all arounders). the train is being driven by kenny, his new buddy from broomfield and a really fit and cute one lapper homegirl. they are cranking. i accelerate (if you want to call it that) to sit-in and my vastus medialis on my left leg starts to cramp. not good. so i say, "thanks, but no thanks", and i get into my survival rhythm once more. that's the last i saw of kenny. he was now officially flying uphill and downhill to the finish.
on the downhills if you didn't ride the correct line, the rocks-centered mostly on the natural fall line of the bike-are large enough that it would easily catapult you into a tree or taco your tire (or both!). you had to follow the beaten path singletrack or else. people were flying! i was passing people, people were passing me. it was amazing. due to the camber of the trail i had to fight not going into the middle where all the big rocks were. i almost biffed it once. i had to do a major bunnyhop to avoid taco'ing my tire and avoiding bodily harm. i start remembering the singletrack and this is my note to self that i'm close to the end. my goal now is to pass this small group of six or so riders ahead of me so i can establish my hierarchy in the narrow singletrack. it would be foolish to pass on this so i need to get in front of them to improve my overall placing. furthermore, i'm in this personal, friendly battle with another competitor in my category who's sporting a gary fisher sugar and we're trading places. i lead on the ups, he leads on the downs. it is a race and other than being polite verbally, your goal is to beat your competitors in your category (while also having a good time). i'm spent from passing the six uphill and as luck would have it, the gary fisher dude throws a chain on the inside. i say something complimentary to him as i pass. here comes the gnarly, final singletrack downhill and i'm riding the brakes to avoid crashing. my forearms are losing it but thank god here comes the finish line. i look behind me to see if anybody's going to ninja me out of my placing, no one's there so i just soft pedal to the finish line, looking like i went 15 rounds with mike tyson, pumping my right fist (non-verbally gesturing, "if you do that again!...")in the the air as i cross the line. kenny being the good friend that he is greets me at the finish line. he's probably been waiting more than 10 minutes (as of now, the results aren't yet posted on-line). i greet grant's lovely wife christina at the finish line, after our salutations, she's bustin' out the binoculars looking for her betrothed. grant finishes about 10 mins behind me.
we grab some food and proceed to eat. when kenny's angling for another beer, i see tinker juarez at the cannondale tent. i also get his autograph and we talk a bit. what a great guy. he was one of my early mountain bike heroes when i began to cycle competitively. he has crazy rasta-dreadlocked hair and is probably one of the most approachable and nicest guys that races bikes for a living. what a great way to end the day. i-70 was like a ghost town on the way back to d. tomorrow, we're off to lake tahoe (and it's forest fired self), so i'm cutting this short so mr. sandman can visit me.
addendum to blizzy-blog. here are the official results with splits for grant, kenny l., and yours truly. scroll to sport men 35-39 for g-ster and kenny l. and sport men 40-49 for moi. kenny drilled his first 50. way to go kenny! i'm daydreaming of a moots soft-tail (not the singlespeed version picture above) for next year's 50....
here's our gastrocnemius muscles labelled according to our category. can you figure out who's who from our calves (sorry for the blatant, not-so-subliminal bit of consumerism)? the topmost picture's a self-portrait of team ill after the fact...