Riding up Rollins

I Really Don’t Know Clouds

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,
from up and down, and still somehow
it’s cloud illusions I recall.
I really don’t know clouds at all.
–Joni Mitchell

I first listened to Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” when I was a teenager, and found it terrible. I had never imagined that a person could think about clouds so darn much.

Ascending McClure into an uncertain future
Ascending McClure into an uncertain future

Felkerino’s and my recent tour in Colorado has changed my sentiments toward clouds and the song.

When a person rides a bike up and down mountains in Colorado, it behooves him or her to give some serious thought to clouds.

Many a morning we woke up to sparkling sunny mornings and clear skies. As we rode our way through the morning the clouds would drift into the blue, as if they were having a pleasant meetup over coffee.

Clouds roll in en route to Ridgway
Clouds roll in en route to Ridgway

Sometimes a cloud gathering would not end peacefully. The sun would recede and the clouds grouped up, their fluffy whiteness turning to stern grays.

Stern clouds and stiff crosswinds outside of Ridgway
Stern clouds and stiff crosswinds outside Ridgway

Having grown up in Iowa and even now in Washington, D.C., I can smell rain when it’s on the way. I can look at the sky, observe how the clouds curl, and know that rain will fall.

In Colorado it wasn’t so easy for me to read clouds. At times the clouds would roll in around us, but they would hover over a neighboring peak, emitting the occasional grumble. On more than one day, we skirted the periphery of bad weather with our fingers crossed that the peak could keep the storm at bay.

Wolf Creek descent. It's sunny on the other side.
Wolf Creek descent. It’s sunny on the other side and this mountain seems to be holding off the big rains.

Is it possible for a mountain to hold back the clouds? I convinced myself that it was, despite having little understanding about weather patterns and clouds in the Rockies. To me, those peaks were as strong as Samson, holding off bad weather.

Clouds gather on the Slumgullian climb.
Clouds gather on the Slumgullian climb.

Until this summer’s tour, I had little appreciation for clouds. They were large masses that disrupted or blocked the sun’s rays and dropped the occasional rain shower. Cumulus, nimbus, and cirrus, so what. Sometimes they struck me as pretty and rarely I would look at one long enough for it to resemble an object or animal.

Going up Molas Pass
Going up Molas Pass

Touring in Colorado changed that. I developed a wary relationship with the clouds. Climbing so high in sparsely populated areas I watched their movements for hours on end. I saw how their personalities could change as the day went on and I respected their power and unpredictability.

To climb or shelter, that is the question. Heading to Gunnison
To climb or shelter, that is the question. Heading to Gunnison

We climbed and the clouds cleared. Time to descend Nine-Mile Hill to Gunnison.
We climbed and the clouds cleared. Time to descend Nine-Mile Hill to Gunnison.

It fascinated me to watch them shift from fluffy and white to masses of thundering coal. While disconcerting to view as we hovered around tree line trying to decide if we should stop to put on rain jackets, it reminded me of the ways the city insulates me from the full brunt of the elements. The elements are still there, of course, but harder to discern amid the city lights and buildings.

We climbed Ute Pass and dodged this weather behind us.
We climbed Ute Pass and dodged this weather behind us.

Ute Pass summit. It's pretty (and dry!) up here
Ute Pass summit. It’s pretty (and dry!) up here

This year, one of my colleagues who is a HUGE Joni Mitchell fan, informed me that the song “Both Sides Now” is really not about clouds. Rather, the clouds are a metaphor for life and love. At the time, I had said that the whole cloud thing had not worked for me.

A cloud awaits us on  Rollins Pass
A cloud awaits us on Rollins Pass

As we climbed away from yet another nasty looking landscape of gray and damp, I realized this trip had brought about a change of mind. I told Felkerino that I agreed with Joni Mitchell’s song. I really do not know clouds. I need more bike touring in the mountains and time outside the city to understand them.

Co-Motion and Wildflowers on Rollins

Spreadsheet Ruminations: Are You There, Legs? It’s Me…

Co-Motion on Rollins Pass

Three months ago I ditched the spreadsheet I used to document my bicycle lifestyle, opting instead for a non-quantitative approach. There’s more to life than counting up the miles, I told myself. I want to explore it.

Over the last three months, I have documented many rides with journal entries and taken photos along the way. Other rides live in my memory and still others are at least temporarily forgotten.

This last week I started longing for that spreadsheet again.  Felkerino and I went for a ride on Saturday and my legs felt totally dead. Small rises took more effort than they should have, required more recovery than normal. Are you there, legs?

Dead legs?! That wasn’t supposed to happen. I planned to return from our riding in Colorado with the indefatigable strength of a giant. Ready for anything. Rawr!

With the exception of my daily commutes and the occasional run, I had taken most of the last two weeks off the bike and easy on my legs. Clarification: When I say “off,” I mean no century or thereabouts rides and no runs longer than four miles for the last two weeks. And still I was feeling exhausted.

Instead of pushing through the longer ride we planned, we divided our ride in half, opting for 87 miles rather than the 160 or so we set out to do. In cases like this, I think it’s best to listen to the body.

Felkerino and I will ride the Appalachian Adventure 1000K checkout ride for our club, the D.C. Randonneurs, at the end of this month. I’m excited about taking on this challenge, and want to make sure I’m ready.

Just as amping up the miles is important, so is rest and recovery after our two-week, just under 1,000-mile tour. I want to make sure I can take full advantage of the mountains and miles in our legs. Riding our brains out after a certain point can become counter-productive.

As someone (Jeff N.) wrote after my original post about ditching the spreadsheet, a mileage log can help validate whether you’ve done the homework you need for your ride.

A mileage log can reassure. That is why I actually think it would be helpful to me right now. Instead I find myself looking back at individual posts. I wonder if I’ve done enough riding overall, but the way my riding is laid out now (i.e., through stories on this blog) I don’t see my training/riding in the aggregate.

What I’ve always disliked about a training log is that it sometimes compels me to chase miles just for the sake of raising my miles. BUT what I’ve liked about maintaining a training log is that it gives me a visual of my training over weeks and months, and helps me understand why I might be having energy dips.

I was thinking today that the story I tell myself is that I am not an athlete. I’m a person out exploring the world by bicycle. That is true. However, I also do a fair amount long-distance riding and running. That doesn’t make me an athlete, but it does mean I have bicycling and fitness goals that a training log can help to inform.

I’m not going to fret too much about recreating my miles or writing all my miles down from today forward. Spilled milk and all that. I have to accept the riding I’ve done and go with that into this 1000K checkout ride. I’m confident what we’ve done is enough, provided we complete one more big training ride (stay tuned!). I’ll get back to the mileage log at some point, most likely in 2015.

And you? What are your thoughts on the whole mileage log thing?

Tikit - Private No Parking

Washington, D.C. Bike Commute Scrapbook

Morning ride to American University. Many nice plants here.
Morning ride to American University. Many nice plants here.

What a week. Four sparkling summer days, top notch training, and a ride along with a friend on a couple of days, too. I celebrated the end of my Bike Friday Tikit field trips to Northwest D.C. with a photo safari on today’s ride home, in part to stretch out my time in the afternoon sun and also to remind me why I should travel this way again soon.

Graffiti near the Russian Embassy on Tunlaw
Graffiti near the Russian Embassy on Tunlaw
Is this on R? I don't recall. I liked the symmetry here, and the pop of pink from the flowers in the planters.
Is this on R? I don’t recall. I liked the symmetry here, and the pop of pink from the flowers in the planters.
Cobbles near Georgetown! I cannot get enough of these. I don't want to ride on them every day, but they have a great aesthetic.
Cobbles near Georgetown! I cannot get enough of these. I don’t want to ride on them every day, but they have a great aesthetic.
This staircase kept catching my eye as I passed it this week. Finally, I could not resist pausing for a photo.
This staircase kept catching my eye as I passed it this week. Finally, I paused for a photo.
Small-wheeled bike at the Big Wheel Bikes mural. An irresistible photo op.
Small-wheeled bike at the Big Wheel Bikes mural. An irresistible photo op.
I can only find Blues Alley when I'm not looking for it. This alley is a known, yet off the main path, spot. I could hear people playing music, and when someone opened the door the odor of cigar smoke wafted out along with the music.
I can only find Blues Alley when I’m not looking for it. This alley is a known, yet off the main path, spot. I could hear people playing, and when someone opened the door the odor of cigar smoke wafted out along with the music.
This is also part of Blues Alley. The textures here compelled me to stop for a shot with the Tikit.
This is also part of Blues Alley. The textures here compelled me to stop for a shot with the Tikit.
Private-No Parking. The Tikit takes a risk.
Private-No Parking. The Tikit takes a risk.
Looking down the Potomac toward the Kennedy Center.
Looking down the Potomac toward the Kennedy Center.
Kennedy Center close up. And, not visible, SO MANY CARS on Rock Creek.
Kennedy Center close up. And, not visible, SO MANY CARS on Rock Creek.
The Tikit wants its picture taken with the Lincoln Memorial. This is as close as we got today.
The Tikit wants its picture taken with the Lincoln Memorial. This is as close as we got today.
The Memorial Bridge is so striking. It looks even better in the warm morning light.
The Memorial Bridge is so striking. It looks even better in the warm morning light. Sorry for the debris, but the Potomac washes up some ugly stuff.
Hey, there's a new sign near the Jefferson. It means get off the sidewalk and onto the road or you will fall down the steps on the other side of the footbridge.
Hey, there’s a new sign near the Jefferson. It means get off the sidewalk and onto the road or you will fall down the steps on the other side of the footbridge.
Do you know what this is? It is the second hairpin on the double hairpin after the Francis Case Bridge. Another day, another victory on this segment.
Do you know what this is? It is the second hairpin on the double hairpin after the Francis Case Bridge. Another day, another victory on this segment.

Sometimes the city is not so bad.

 

 

Tikit n me by Felkerino

@SharrowsDC Ride Along in #BikeDC

Photo by Felkerino
Photo by Felkerino

As a child, I spent part of my summer days taking swimming lessons. My sister and I would walk with Jeff, the neighbor boy, to the bus that would take us to our swimming lessons in the town seven miles down the road.

I did not like swimming lessons, but I enjoyed the walk to and from the bus. Jeff, Middle Gersemalina, and I would chat about the things little kids do and there was no hurry to get home, except that nagging hunger that often comes post-swimming.

The past two days Brian, aka @sharrowsDC, and I have commuted home together because I happen to be spending a few days in his neck of the work woods. Our rides reminded me of those walks home after swimming lessons. Relaxed and easy, a time to unwind after hours of doing something more structured.

Brian @sharrowsDC

It’s also interesting to compare our commuting ways. On a surface level, Brian is riding a Surly Ogre with 700C tires more than two inches wide, while I’m currently commuting on a small-wheeled folder, my Bike Friday Tikit.

We’re both carrying luggage, but we don’t haul anything on our backs. He uses an Ortlieb pannier, and I have my Carradice trunk bag.

Brian is very attuned to bike lanes and infrastructure, more so than I. I’m aware of these things, but I don’t always feel like I’m paying enough attention to them. Maybe I should? I don’t know. The bottom line is we both seek out quiet roads, whether or not they have sharrows or a bike lane.

We also have identified some of the same headache spots. We notice similar issues about the Rock Creek Trail as we pass by the Kennedy Center. Lots of people, both cyclists and runners, and bumpy, too.

We talk about the crosswalks along the National Mall, and how some of the buttons one has to push to make the lights change are not located in a spot convenient to pedestrians or cyclists. One of them is behind a fence. Not helpful.

@sharrowsDC leads the way to Rock Creek
@sharrowsDC leads the way to Rock Creek

Like yesterday, we hit the double hairpin on the eastern side of the Francis Case Bridge. Both of us repeat our descents through both hairpins without putting a foot down. That makes it a true skill and not a fluke. Victory!

As I ride with Brian, or anyone who commutes regularly for that matter, I notice we all have our preferred ways for getting places. Both ways are good, but I like mine best. Why? Because they are what I’m used to, I suppose. I’ve memorized every blind corner, bend, stoplight, and pothole. It feels comfortable.

I told Brian today that riding back into downtown D.C. with him the past two days has been a simple pleasure. Yes, our bicycling is a result of our transportation choices and needs, but it’s been wonderful to combine my transportation time with a bike ride and some miles around town with a good #bikeDC friend.

Tikit at American

Switching It Up: Bike Friday Tikit Commutes

Photo courtesty of @sharrowsDC
Photo courtesty of @sharrowsDC

Last week someone asked me how many bikes I own. I generally deflect this question because anyone who is surrounded by bad influences (I’m looking at you, Felkerino) and has the money can purchase multiple bikes. So I have more than one bike, but do not consider it any sort of accomplishment.

That said, the question was a good prompt to look in the Dining Room Bike Shop and switch up my commute steed. If a person owns multiple bikes I do think they should, you know, ride them.

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Touring the Divide

Bike Tourist Encounters

Since I started bike touring, I’ve trained myself to keep an eye open for others who might be on an adventure. Bike riders can blend into the landscape, but if you pay attention they will jump out at you.

During the two weeks that Felkerino and I pedaled our bicycle around Colorado, we crossed paths with several other bike tourists. It was exciting to meet fellow travelers and learn more about their riding.

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