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This summer is the tenth anniversary of Margaret's and my tandem ride across the USA. We kept a blog that summer documenting our trip, and to commemorate what is still my greatest moment on a bike, I’m going to reblog every entry on the anniversary of it's original post date. So click over to my new blog and follow along as Mags and I relive our trip. Below is an excerpt from today's post:
Yesterday we crossed Washington Pass (elev. 5400 ft) in North Cascades National Park and entered the arid west. Wallace Stegner called it the real west, and I agree with him. The smell of sagebrush and the haze of distant wildfires welcomed me home as we came down from the mountains. We made it all the way to Twisp, WA, 98 miles from where we started in Marblemount on the west side of the mountains. Today we’ll rest a bit while it’s hot out and then try to get over Loup Loup Pass (elev. 4020 ft) and maybe to Omak this evening.
To read more, click here.
When last we spoke, I was spinning my wheels in a dead end job, working for a spineless government agency and looking forward to my next long weekend. Since then I’ve relocated to the world’s premier mountain biking destination, taken a corporate job and spend nearly every weekend in Moab. I finally feel like I’m in the driver’s seat on the road that is my life. Perhaps a better metaphor here is that it is my hands on the handlebars controlling my ride through life.
I beheld this wonder on my ride to the office this morning. Portland may be the nexus of the xtracycle world, but here in Salt Lake City we haul our cargo by bicycle too. I would have liked to ask the owner a few questions about this thing but he was 'sleeping' under a nearby tree and I was afraid to disturb him. I did get close enough to see that it's held together entierly by bailing wire and zip ties. This man is taking cargo bikes where no man has gone before. Who says Utahns have lost that
I suppose that doesn’t sound very lucky, really, but I will say it again: Ryan is a lucky man, and not in the sense that “if it wasn’t for bad luck he’d have no luck at all” either. Every time Ryan got hit he was able to walk away relatively unscathed. Although he looks pretty scathed in the picture above if you ask me. The thing that makes him so lucky is that his wife still lets him commute on his bicycle.
See, Ryan is a father, breadwinner (that’s an old fashioned way of saying he brings home the bacon) and NPR donor. There are people who depend on him, public radio freeloaders like myself included, and he can’t really win bread if he’s laid up in traction after a careless driver fails to see him—and fails to hear him crash into her car two thirds of the time.
On a recent ride Ryan and I were talking about ways to avoid the kind of luck he’s been having. In general, we decided are two approaches to lowering the probability of getting hit: 1) Make yourself easy to see, and 2) reduce your exposure to traffic.
I know Ryan is pretty good about making himself easy to see. He’s uses lots of flashing lights and wears a dork jacket (Dork Jacket pictured here), and he says he’s planning to look like a rolling Christmas tree when he commutes this winter. Reducing your exposure to traffic can be a little more difficult. Part of that is living close enough to your place of employment that you’re not out on the roads as long every day. Another part is choosing a commuting route that avoids the arterial roads and winds through residential streets instead. Not only is this safer but the people watching in some of these neighborhoods is much better.
Ryan thought of another way of reducing exposure that I have been doing, somewhat subconsciously, for some time. He said he is going to avoid commuting at rush hour. It’s so simple that most people never think about it, but I’ve noticed it myself. If I arrive at my office at 8:00 in the morning the traffic is much thicker and the drivers are far dumber than if I arrive at 7:45 or 8:15. I like the idea so much that last week I told my boss I was going to shift my work schedule to where I would start my day 20 minutes after the hour and end it 10 minutes after the hour—not the same hour dummy, I’ve got to put in a full day like everybody else—and the difference is very real. Less traffic and more courteous drivers.
So what other ways do you use to avoid getting lucky like Ryan when you’re bicycle commuting? I read recently that cyclists should be just a little erratic when riding in traffic. Throw in a little swerve here and there, etc. to keep drivers on their toes and make them aware we’re out there. I don’t know how I feel about that technique, since I think rider unpredictability is one of the leading causes of motorist/cyclist disharmony, but if it makes cyclists safer it might not be a bad idea. But what else have I missed? How can we make Ryan’s wife more comfortable with his bicycle commuting?
I like to thumb through old newspapers—doesn’t everybody? –and recently came across this ad in the June 29, 1900 edition of the Salt Lake Herald.
I marveled at the thought that Salt Lake City once was the nexus of bicycle racing in America, and at how the Salt Palace, now just a dingy old convention center, was home to the best velodrome in the country. For only 10 cents I could see a five mile professional race, the terrific Australian Pursuit and other grand amateur events. Then to top off an already perfect evening, they’ll throw in two Vaudeville performances after the racing. That’s what I call a dependable show.
Then I noticed the ad immediately below the Salt Palace ad and can’t help but wonder if the Terrible Swede and the Red Devil weren’t the target market.
MANHOOD RESTORED "CUPIDENE" This great Vegetable Vitalizer, the prescription of a famous French physician, will quickly cure you of all Pains in the Back, Seminal Emissions, Nervous Debility, Pimples, Unfitness to Marry, Exhausting Drains, Varicocele and Constipation. It stops all losses by day or night. Prevents quickness of discharge, which if not checked leads to Spermatorrhoea and all the horrors of impotency. CUPIDENE cleanses the liver, the kidneys and the urinary organs of all impurities. CUPIDENE strengthens and restores small weak organs.
But even more horrifying is the juxtaposition of these two ads. Is it just an unfortunate coincidence or is the myth that cycling causes impotence over a century old? If it’s the latter, why is there always a French Doctor involved when cyclists turn to drugs to enhance their performance? Either way, after a race season like the one I just finished my manhood needs restoring. I wanna try some of that CUPIDENE!
I raced in the Mountain Bike Challenge Lough Derg Stage Race in Killaloe, Ireland last week. I had a real shot at making the podium but some bad luck in the form of a dropped chain (made worse by my comical attempts of untangling it under hypoxic conditions) in Stage 1 and a flat 'tyre' in Stage 3 pushed me down to 13th overall. I wrote a story about it over at MTBracenews.com, which you can read here.
Below is my favorite photo from the race, according to the guy in the hi-vis vest I was the only racer to ride this climb.
Last spring I wrote about how my cyclocross bike was approaching 10,000 miles. I didn't ride it much over the summer so I didn't hit that milestone until I mounted my fenders on it for wintertime commuting. Since turning an odometer over to all zeros is kind of a noteworthy occasion, I figured I would video the moment. Imagine my surprise when that fifth digit showed up on the left side of the screen. Now I have to ride 90,000 more miles to turn it over.
Even though I didn't turn it over to all zeros, 10,000 miles on one bike is quite a milestone. I think I'll celebrate with another pilgrimage, this time with a Gaelic twist. Check back soon.
Mark and I were sitting on the railroad tracks when the first man on a four wheeler rolled up. The road west along the tracks was closed in six miles, a Union Pacific sign courteously but sternly warned us. The road south to the Newfoundland Mountains, our desired destination, was too wet and goopy for our bikes. We had just pedaled over 80 miles across the Great Salt Lake with the intention of climbing Desert Peak and seemed now to be thwarted just ten miles from where we could start hiking. In those moments of indecision we had hidden our bikes behind an embankment and were considering starting our hike from there when instead we decided it was a good time for lunch. We had not seen a train for over an hour. When the first ATV rider arrived I was sitting on the rails munching on a cheese and mustard sandwich so I let Mark do most of the talking. After exchanging a few pleasantries Mark asked the man about the roads in the Newfies. We were learning about a ride he’d done down the east side, over a low pass and back north on the west side when his partner rolled up on a second ATV.
This time there were no pleasantries. “How the hell did you get out here?” the second man asked as soon as there was a lull in the conversation. We told them about our bikes and secretly wished we hadn’t as they could steal them and leave us out there to die in the desert. Then Mark turned back to the first man and asked more about his ride around the Newfies. We were particularly interested in the road around the southern end of the range, though the Air Force’s bombing range. If that road was passable then a circumnavigation of the Newfies by bicycle was a distinct possibility. After a minute or so there was another pause in the conversation. The silence of the desert hung in the air. I started to peel a tangerine. Mark looked at the railroad ties, then at me, then at the first man. I might have heard a coyote howl. The second man couldn’t take it anymore. He had to be sure, he asked, “You mean you rode your pedal bikes all the way out here?”
Indeed we had. We camped two nights on the mudflats near the Hogup Mountains, far enough from the railroad tracks not to be awakened by passing trains but not so far that we couldn’t walk over after dinner one evening to put railroad spikes on the rails to watch them get squashed by freight trains bound for the ports in California. We raced our bikes across the mudflats, marveled at the enormity of Governor Bangerter’s pumps on the Lake’s western shore while debating the futility of that attempt by man to control his environment, and watched with curiosity as backhoes and bulldozers built miles of dikes to parcel out more of the Lake into evaporation ponds so Great Salt Lake Minerals Co. can produce and sell us more salt to sprinkle on our roads, salinate our rivers and farmlands and be pulverized into dust we can breathe in our winter air. The west shore of the Lake is changing.
Indeed, even the desolation that draws us out there is at risk. On the morning of our return we met a Union Pacific employee who was out inspecting the track. We hoped he wouldn’t notice our collection of squashed railroad spikes but he seemed more interested in telling us about the other cyclists he’s seen out there. He’d noticed our tracks on the causeway on his way across the Lake that morning and figured he’d run into us sooner or later. “Most of them are out lookin’ for Jesus, I guess.” he says of the cyclists he sees out there all the time. “Are you heading back today? Well, watch out for trains.”
“Yes sir,” I say with a smile because he has implicitly given us permission to ride across the privately owned causeway, which we were going to do anyway, “we’ve found our Jesus and are ready to go home.” As we turn away and pedal for home my smile turns to a frown because he has also implicitly stated that Mark and I are not the only nut jobs who ride out there. As much as I’d love to see more people out enjoying the Lake, I want to keep that most desolate part of the Lake just for us. I decide not to believe him. As far as I am concerned, we are still the only cyclists who ride out there.
The other day I got an email from a guy who had read about my ride around Great Salt Lake. I had emailed one of his colleagues about a project at work and that colleague forwarded my email on to him. In his email response to me he answered my work related questions then finished with this:
In a funny coincidence, I was talking to some co-workers today about bike touring and I told them about a Cycling Utah article I had read four years ago or so about some crazy dude who rode his bike around the Great Salt Lake. I had remembered a few things -- it sounded very rough and he ran out of water. I wasn't sure it sounded fun.
So I googled some stuff, found the article and guess what?
YOU'RE THAT CRAZY DUDE.
It seems that I’m getting a reputation for being ‘that crazy dude’ that rides his bike around Great Salt Lake. While ‘crazy dude’ is not a status most people, myself included, aspire to, I have done little in the past to dissuade people from thinking otherwise about me. Today’s post can only make the matter worse and will probably solidify my position as the world’s preeminent crazy dude that rides around Great Salt Lake.
During the summer a friend of mine met a woman who was devoting her summer to exploring Great Salt Lake. She and another woman had been swimming in, sailing on, hiking along, flying over etc. etc. around the Lake and were writing about their experiences on a blog called Summer of Salt. My friend, doing his part to ruin my reputation, said something like “I know this crazy dude who rode his bike around the Lake. You should talk to him.” So a few days later I got an email from Heidi and we arranged to meet for lunch. Nicole, her partner in the project, came along too and we all swapped stories about our travels around the Lake and discussed why so few people appreciate and recreate on it. I felt good talking with some fellow Great Salt Lake lovers and wished there were more people like us. We decided that one way to make that happen would be for me to write a post for their blog about why I rode my bike around the Lake, and why I keep going back.
You’ll find the introduction to my post below but you’ll have to visit Heidi and Nicole’s site to finish it. When you’re done, do yourself a favor and spend some time reading some of their other posts. I recommend the one on the Bear River and the one on the Sun Tunnels.
Let me make one thing clear from the beginning: The cycling opportunities around Great Salt Lake are terrible. There I said it, but it’s a lie. Great Salt Lake is the last destination in Utah I would recommend for a cycling adventure. For that Utah has Moab, St. George, Vernal and Park City. Those places have buff single track, paved rural roads, ideal weather and communities that cater to cyclists’ needs. Great Salt Lake has none of that. Instead it’s got horseflies that bite through spandex, a complete and total absence of shade, awful roads that rattle loose every bolt on your bicycle, and the real possibility that the most minor of mechanical failures, or even just one too many flat tires could put your very survival in question…click here to continue reading.
I won the greatest prize of my racing career on Tuesday night, both in terms on monetary value and sheer awesomeness.
I’ve been doing most of the Tuesday night races this summer because they’re a great way to maintain your top-end fitness levels without the drudgery of intervals. The races are typically an hour long so if you want to compete you’ve got to red line it from start to finish. I actually won the series last year—and won a wad of cash in the process—primarily due to my amazing ability to show up every week. But this year the series is a lot more competitive so instead of focusing on overall points I’ve had my eyes on the prize that matters most—The Post-Race Raffle.
Tuesday night was a special night because, among all the usual bicycle wares up for grabs, was this deluxe acoustic motorhome:
When the time came to raffle the tandem I was busy being distracted by my buddy Matt, who was…well, I’ll just let the pictures tell the story.
The only thing it needs is an iBert Safe-T-Seat so our whole family can ride. Whaddya say Mags?