Sunday, July 31, 2011


Vacations used to include a daily or nearly-daily posting; apparently, not any more.

We’ve been on a family road trip for about a week, driving south to Lake Shasta, California, where we hung out in a house on a lake for three days with the San Francisco cousins, then after a night in Medford, Oregon, which included a fascinating bout of food poisoning for yours truly, we’ve arrived in Portland, Oregon, where the only available room we could find has been a suite at the fancy Governor Hotel, so we’ve been livin’ large for the past twelve hours, as evidenced not only by the quality of the digs in which we find ourselves, but also by the kid’s dinner last evening, which featured a six ounce filet mignon priced for the Robber Barons who this place was apparently built for.

But hell, we’re on vacation, so why not?

August arrives tomorrow, and with it, increased nervousness about the future—just a month to go until school starts and so on, but for now, it’s still all fun and games. One wonders whether what’s in store will be manageable given the last six months of relative calm, but one thing is certain: life will go on in its own inevitable ways and whatever happens will have happened when it’s all over and done with.

In other words, we’re on vacation, so why not?

It’s odd how much time a person can spend fretting over tomorrow while simultaneously regretting yesterday; neither of those times actually exist, (they’re both in our heads), and yet they can cause terrors that seem as real as those induced by the 18-wheelers that roared alongside me in the dark as we careened down Interstate 5 earlier this week.

Having driven way more miles in the last five days than I have in the previous 12 months, I’ve had my share of frightening moments behind the wheel, but hell, we’re on vacation, so why not?

Sunday, July 24, 2011


When I was checking in for this year’s Tour de Watertower, I bragged to event organizer, Hardcore Greg, that having ridden in last week’s Polka Dot Rocker, I wasn’t daunted by the prospect of pedaling up seven of Seattle’s highest hills; it seemed like the climbing prospects afforded by that earlier competition dwarfed those required by the one ahead. After all, in the PDR, I was on my bike for almost four hours non-stop; no way the TdW would take that long.


My final time yesterday was 3:44:46, and because the Tour’s route was clearer than the Rocker’s, I definitely rode harder and suffered more in the former than the latter; TdW FTW.

It was a stunningly beautiful day and the route took us through some of the loveliest neighborhoods in town, including the creepy Stepford Wives tidiness of Magnolia and upper Queen Anne.

I was pretty pleased with my route, having finally, after two previous attempts, figured out some reasonably efficient ways to reach each of the destinations.

My better decisions were to take the Magnolia Bridge and approach that neighborhood’s tower from the south and also, in a moment of inspiration, go across the Aurora Bridge on my way from Queen Anne to Woodland Park.

On the other hand, leaving my bike at the top of the Counterbalance and walking to the nearby tower was kind of a mistake. Note to self: you may save time strolling up, but coming back down on two feet is sloooow.

And, for the third year running, I took that dead-end street leaving Magnolia and had to ride back up a hill to get out of there.

Still, I only cramped up once, climbing Fremont Boulevard, but by that time, I was pretty sure was going to survive, no matter what.

The winner, Rob. K., finished more than an hour and a half faster than me; I got to spend more time riding on a perfect day, though.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I came to my old hometown of Minneapolis to do some revamp with my old writing partner on an old book of ours and couldn’t resist checking out the old neighborhood where Jen and I used to live when she was a student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design way back in the old days of the very late 1980s and early 90s.

Things around here look pretty much the same as always although I don’t quite remember traffic being so bad, but that could be because of how infrequently I drive nowadays and how low my tolerance has become for sitting in a car behind other cars. Tooling around the Twin Cities in my friend’s two-seater convertible, which sits so low to the ground you’re pretty much at the tailpipe level of most SUVs, impressed upon me how much I used to drive when I lived here and how unsatisfying a way to spend one’s time that is, or at least is for me, now.

Minneapolis turns out to have miles and miles of freeways all of which seem to lead more or less to the same places, and all of which seem to be equally crowded at all times of day. I really don’t know how people live like this, but then again, most of them are in air-conditioned vehicles with the windows rolled up, while I was mostly melting like a Hershey’s Kiss in a frying pan with the heat turned up to high.

Yesterday, with the temperature close to one hundred degrees and the humidity about 80 percent was more challenging today when the thermometer has dropped all the way down to the mid-eighties, but because I spent more time driving today, it mostly felt worse.

I never get nearly so overheated riding a bike, although I’m going to test that out in a little while with a spin on my pal’s bike around his suburban neighborhood.

Yah sure, you betcha.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I didn’t walk up a single hill, not once.

I rode all the way to the top of Dravus Avenue, including that last block that’s so steep the sidewalk has ridges in it to keep pedestrians from sliding backwards.

I even took the challenge of slamming 12 ounces of Snoop Dogg-endorsed Blast malt liquor beverage and then riding down and up one of the gnarliest blocks in all of Seattle.

And to top it off, I actually made the podium, coming in third (with 100 points!) in the “Joker” Division of this year’s revived “Polka Dot Rocker,” checkpoint-style underground bike race famous for its “whiskey, hillclimbing, and suffering.”

It was four years ago when the race was last run, and that time, I mainly bailed, hitting a few checkpoints, and then, after lounging at home, heading off to the after-party. This time, though, I stuck out the whole four hours, and, sort of by accident, ended up taking a route that earned me a higher score than I had any reason beforehand to expect.

It was my one good idea to power up Genessee Street in West Seattle twice to earn a quick thirty, and then head back to town rather than spending a lot of time on that side of the water for not so many more points.

I then headed to Magnolia, mostly because I wanted to check out the Discovery Park lighthouse, a place I’ve never visited. As it was, though, I got completely lost in the park and never even found the place. I did, however, gather up another thirty with my jaunt up Dravus and a visit to Perkins Lane, way down below Magnolia Boulevard.

At this point, I had just enough time to get home for polka dot clothing and a quick stop on Yesler at 32nd right near my house, before the Blast checkpoint on Interlachen, and then off to the Summit to savor my completely unexpected third place finish.

Friday, July 15, 2011


tehJobies younger and handsomer doppleganger brother and I were talking about what makes a ride memorable and I think we concluded that there aren’t any set criteria.

Sure, a theme can help, even one cobbled together more or less on the spot in response to the postponement of another, and seeing a bunch of familiar faces mixed in with a healthy contingent of fucking noobs usually contributes, as does going to a place we’ve never been, especially one with a stunning view of downtown Seattle cradled among its vast industrial wastelands, but it’s not as if there’s an algorithm or recipe for what makes a Thursday night out on two wheels difficult to forget.

Which isn’t to say that the concept is merely tautological; that is, just because the experience sticks in your head isn’t enough to make it memorable and indeed, being unable to recall details is often a component of unforgettable times.

Nor do I believe that it’s purely subjective; there are well-established markers for the memorable—outdoor drinking, long-lingering summer evenings, a full moon eventually so bright it casts shadows—and I think a person could be mistaken about what’s memorable, especially if he or she were overly impressionable or, more likely, had less of an appetite for the sorts of imbibing that makes it hard for me, at least, to remember the particulars of what went down.

That said, it’s certain that the First, and Perhaps Only, Pointe Quatre-Vingt Trois Occasionally Annual Bastille Day Ride is one for the memory annals; I’m sure I will never forget (no matter how hard I try) the baguettes and bicycles, the panoramic belle vue of our fair city, and finally, back on mon velo for a spin to the semi-authentic French bistro and a couple more bottles of wine to cap the night.

Bogart and Bacall as Rick and Elsa in Casablanca will always have Paris, sure; this bike gang, I guess, Ella Baily.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I still enjoy major league baseball’s All-Star game, even though this year’s bloated rosters feature a load of players not fit to carry Sandy Koufax’s jockstrap (a job I’d happily take on, by the way.)

I liked it better back in the old days, though, when the National League won like a hundred times in a row before these days, when, until last year, I think, the American League prevailed for about a century.

But this business of having the winning team garner home field advantage in the World Series for its league’s representative is lame. That’s like giving a head start in a track meet to a runner just because he comes from a town voted “Most Livable in the U.S.” by Rand-McNally. Or something like that.

I think my favorite All-Star game memory is in 1986 when Fernando Valenzuela struck out five batters in a row, although I also have a soft spot in my heart for Bo Jackson’s 1989 game home run, a contest I watched with my friend’s son, feeling, for the first time ever, that it might be interesting to have a kid of my own, a sentiment I didn’t act on for almost two decades afterwards.

I seem to recall listening to the 1966 game in which Koufax pitched; apparently, he wild-pitched in the one run he gave up. I would have been nine years old, prime baseball fandom time. It seems to me that I was at the swim club our family went to. I vaguely recall hovering near a radio in the covered dining area. I could be completely making that up, though; for all I know, I was glued to the TV set in my parents’ bedroom—although that seems pretty unlikely; I can’t ever really picture doing that other than to watch an Allan Sherman special that aired around that time.

My kid, of course, will have no such recollections: she’s watching Master Chef on the internet.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Yesterday, after a vigorous yoga practice using the primary series Guruji-led Ashtanga yoga DVD, I did some gardening, then rode the tandem with Mimi to a doubleheader softball game; afterwards, we pedaled a couple miles to our sponsoring bar for celebratory libations, then cycled home. In the evening, after dinner, I took a random bike ride around Capitol Hill, looking at people and things before coming home and going to bed.

This morning, I rode my bike up the hill to shop, then came home, changed clothes and bikes, and pedaled to the Vedanta Society meeting, where Swami Bhaskarananda talked, among other things, about how all the pleasures we experience are experienced through the body, which is why they’re temporary and ephemeral and why real bliss can only be found by recognizing the essential One-ness of everything.

Afterwards, I rode home and then, after moving the lawn, took another random bike ride, this time up and down Queen Anne hill twice, doing some recon for an upcoming bike race.

And the whole time, all I could think of was what’s going to happen to me when I can no longer do the things that I do. I’ve probably got only twenty or so years left (at best) when I can pedal about so much and bend myself into the various positions I’m apt to bend myself into most mornings and, with any luck, I ought to live something more like forty or even fifty years more. So, those last two decades, what am I going to do with myself? Sit on the couch and read? (Or more likely nap?) Eat? Take a few more walks?

I wonder how most of us would respond if given a choice of living an extra few years in a state of compromised health or dying quickly while we’re still feeling good. I hope I never have to decide; but I do think if I can’t ride a bike, just shoot me.

Friday, July 08, 2011


I (dimly) remember my first .83 rides, now close to half a decade ago. Such adventure! So many new places in town to visit on a bike! What a stunning display of alcohol-fueled hijinks!

These days, though, (at least if last night was any indication) things sometimes tend to be a bit calmer: sure, there are strange and wonderful routes taken to secret bike-accessible locations; of course there is quaffing of alcoholic beverages outside; and naturally, one even gets to experience an unexpected visit from a police officer, although her opening gambit question, “Have any of you heard anyone yelling?” cast no aspersions on our august assembly.

But the overall mood (again, arguably committing the fallacy of hasty generalization by basing this assessment primarily on last evening) seems to be slightly less manic and fraught with danger; heck, you might even be moved to bring your mom on the ride! And not have her die!

Of course, it could just be that after all this time, my tolerance level for the experience of bicycle shenanigans is higher and that, at this point, I need to mainline the nonsense to feel the same rush.

After all, we did cruise crazily through Myrtle Edwards Park as a dreamy sun began to set over an Eliot Bay packed with an unprecedented number of sailboats; and there was bridge-crossing in crosswinds after many a libation al fresco; and we eventually wended our way northwards to a long-favored bar that I’m usually arriving at just as the ride is being eighty-sixed, so one can hardly argue that nothing exciting at all went down.

Maybe I’m just nostalgic for the days when bottle-rockets were launched from buttcracks, or bikes were carried miles upwards through the woods, or when grown men sported children-sized skeleton costumes and cavorted wildly in the playgrounds of public schools; no doubt, though, such inspired stupidity still lies ahead; surely it’s to be found just the next bike ride away.

Thursday, July 07, 2011


I’ve visited two friends in the Emergency Ward at Harborview Hospital in the past week or so: one was a spandex-wearing type cyclist who crashed on a training run, broke three ribs, and punctured a lung; the other was an urban knickers and t-shirt wearing type of rider who fell through a roof while watching fireworks on the Fourth of July and broke her leg pretty spectacularly.

Both are on the mend, though, no thanks, in the first place, to modern Western medicine, which even in the 21st century can’t do much for those injuries other than stand by and wait for the body to recuperate, but with much gratitude in the second case to contemporary emergency medical procedures which, apparently, can pretty much go all Bionic Woman on fractured knees and femurs, insert some pins and titanium, and have the patient back as good as new in far less time than it takes your average auto body shop to repair a smashed-up fender on your car.

I’m not all that great at the hospital visit, other than adhering to the “no longer than 15 minutes” rule. Despite (or perhaps as a result of) having spent many hours as a lad trailing behind my physician father as we navigated the halls of his hospital on weekends while he got in some work before or after sporting events or swimming pool visits, I get all nervous and uncomfortable around the injured and/or ill.

Mainly, I think, I recoil at being confronted so starkly with the frailty of human beings. I don’t like to think about how soft and vulnerable we are and how hard and unforgiving are the structures that we’re apt to impact by accident: tarmac, concrete, crushed gravel, owch.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors had it better: when they crashed on the Wooly Mammoth raid or whatever, they were more apt to land on dirt, or grass, or furry moss. We could all do for such softer landings.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


I did the Cargo Bike Jamboree White Trash Sprints Ride yesterday, combining two bicycle events into one and, in the process, learning an important fact: while it’s cool to participate in a parade of bikes with massive carrying capacity, it’s sort of more fun to be the one person at the scene who has the ability to handle a larger-than-average load. Not only do you feel like you’re performing a valuable public service, you also get props from folks who ride bikes fast and might otherwise find it difficult to restrain a sneer at the rate of speed at which you pedal.

Also, it was interesting to see the two different, but slightly overlapping bicycle communities: the former was populated by older, more sedate folks whose bikes mostly had gears and baskets; the latter by younger, hipper kids whose rigs didn’t even have brakes!

But the cool thing was a good time was had by all, although it would be interesting to see how badly sunburned some of the shirtless dudes hanging out on the Bridge to Nowhere were by the end of the afternoon.

I myself mostly crouched in the one small piece of shade afforded by an ambitious eucalyptus tree creeping over the ruined freeway; it was pleasant to sip a beer and watch pairs of cyclists race up the road; there was a moment of unwanted excitement when one girl flipped herself off her seat and landed hard on her backside, but she seemed to be all right, albeit a bit bruised.

I left long before things probably got really interesting in the competition; I’m sure there were some thrilling races later in the day, but by that time, I was napping in my backyard and trying to keep my dog from freaking out over all the Fourth of July explosions going off in the neighborhood.

I never made it back to the Cargo Ride as planned; still, plenty of fun combined all around.

Sunday, July 03, 2011


Few things are more satisfying than clearing out half a dozen bags of old clothes, abandoned books, and assorted bric-a-bracs from one’s basement and closets, and carrying all that shit to Goodwill or St. Vincent DePaul or wherever, where worthy individuals will sort it, repair as necessary, and resell it, thereby earning much-needed funds for their respective organizations and the communities they serve.

And when you can make the delivery on your bicycle, carrying the goods in your very own Haulin’ Colin trailer, it’s a virtually unalloyed joy: not only do you get to the enjoy the intrinsic pleasure of divestiture, you also get to feel all holier-than-thou for doing so on two wheels, plus you earn your day’s exercise by lugging the load behind you while pedaling up hills that become that much steeper with every extra coffee-table book or pair of shoes you’ve included in the stash.

I made two trips today and cleared out something on the order of 30 square feet of floor space in the basement, an area now freed up for bike components and other junk that I’m unable to part with. This just goes to show that one man’s junk is another man’s imagined project; it’s not that one doesn’t hold on to crap that will never get used; it’s not as if I don’t have loads more stuff that ought also to be donated to a worthy cause; it’s just that it turns out to be a lot easier to give up on a polyester shirt that hasn’t been worn since 1996 than it is to forsake a broken derailleur from a scavenged bike of the same vintage.

I’m pleased to say that the workers at Goodwill were suitably impressed with my decision to bring my donations to them via two wheel; they let me cut to the front of the line and everything. And they were even more impressed when I came back the second time; trailers rule!

Friday, July 01, 2011


If you sit in the front car on the “Cyclone” rollercoaster at Coney Island, you’ll feel as if you’re going to be pitched out over the front of the thing and then be crushed by the train as it hurtles down the first big dip and the rises into a teeth-jarring turn to the right.

But it’s a sensation not to be missed, although perhaps you should really heed the sage advice of a guy sitting behind you and hold your glasses in your hands rather than leave them on your face, where they’re not apt to stay unless you get lucky and/or have fast hands to catch them before they’re off onto the tracks below.

The whole ride lasts less than a minute, but, frankly, I was pretty ready for it to be done, even though it was a screaming riot the whole time. The thing is like 90 years old and still packs a wallop, even more than the modern conveyance, something called the “Soarin’ Eagle” that we rode later, a contraption that has you lying down face first over the tracks upon which you’re riding and also features several 360 degree spins along the way.

Coney Island was charming in its tawdriness; I especially liked that you could get a beer (or a Pina Colada) right there on the boardwalk and that, in the civilized state which is New York, a parent can sit with his child in a bar, just so long as the youngster is drinking something non-alcoholic (although even that might have been permitted in the dive we found ourselves in.)

It’s surprising to me that in all the times my family came to New York City when we were kids, we never (at least as far as I can recall) never visited the place; although I’m not sure I’ll ever go back, I’m pleased to note that my kid, at least, will have enjoyed its ragged charms in her youth.