Friday, July 24, 2020

STPDX


From Here to Eternity


As the COVID-19 pandemic made its power clear, it was time to duck for cover.  In late spring the Cascade Bicycle Club cancelled all events remaining for the year.  It wasn’t long before the idea of riding it anyway came to me.  Partly, I imagined, this would be a return to the very early days of this legendary ride, when only a few hundred people participated.  I assumed there would be other people riding the course, on the dates originally scheduled.

Logistics seemed simple enough:
  • Make a reservation for a hotel in Castle Rock
  • Mail a package of necessary items to the hotel
  • Reserve a rental van in Portland

There was a Budget Car Rental right next to the finish line, so reserving there was preordained! 

Next I set out to find a partner in crime.  My friend Donna came to mind.  Earlier in the season I had signed her up to a very elite Trace Pacifique team.  Since that event’s cancelation (and, Canadian border closure, for good measure), Donna had been sitting home, by the phone, pining away while awaiting the call.  When it finally came, Donna rose to the occasion, agreeing to stoke the Lippy Ecstasy tandem.

To make the ride even more interesting, I solicited two friends to join in, enroute, each for a portion of the ride.

And that was that.  Others had expressed interest, but their salary demands would have put the team over the league’s salary cap.

A week or so before the ride I noticed on google maps that the Budget location near the finish was “Temporarily closed.”  I wonder when Budget was going to mention it.  I phoned them and they moved my reservation to one of their downtown locations.  They informed me a van was no longer available, all of them having been commandeered for Operation Legend.  Instead I would have an SUV.  I started worrying about getting the tandem in the vehicle.

As the originally scheduled weekend drew near, the forecast was for some heat.  It would not be record heat, but it would be high enough to take a toll on us.

The day before the start I nervously replaced the captain’s stem on the tandem.  The existing drop, from saddle height, was putting too much weight on my hands.  I think this change made the ride doable.


Stem seemed just too low.

We got rolling at 5:30 am.  It was already a gorgeous day.  The two of us only had several short tandem rides under our belt.  There are various things to learn. 

One challenge was navigation.  Donna had the Garmin, with the route downloaded to it, so she was the chief navigator.  After Renton we discovered that without 10,000 of our close friends, or hundreds of directional arrows painted on the pavement, navigating became tricky.  By the time we arrived at Spanaway, we had made three significant wrong turns.

There were still some tandem basics to iron out, as well.  We were going along, everything seeming fine, when suddenly the bike lurched out into the lane of traffic!  Fortunately there were no cars.  Donna seemed surprised that adjusting her underpants had caused this to happen.  I knew it was pointless, and also not the time, to mention that one generally does not wear underpants with cycling shorts.  Donna perhaps knew what I was thinking and preempted by saying that all of her friends had already told her not to wear underpants.  Whatever my overall reaction to the incident, I must have come across as being a bit testy – the stoker accused me of having my period.

Near Puyallup the first clearly STP 2020 participants passed us.  Our first food stop was at the Safeway in Spanaway.  There the ever eager and cheerful Peg joined us. 

She set a wicked pace on SR-507, where it parallels the perimeter of the Joint Base.  That was a good thing because it’s a tough stretch: lots of fast moving traffic, on a narrow lane, with a narrow shoulder (partly taken up for rumble strips) for cyclists.

It was on this stretch that we had our first near death experience.  There are two very bad railroad crossings, the tracks being at such an angle as to easily gobble up a bicycle wheel.  To improve the situation for cyclists, an extra lane has been added, for a very short distance before and after each of these crossings.  This allows the cyclist to cross the track safely, at 90 degrees, while being away from traffic.  The tracks went from left (close) to right (far), so to cross them you come at them from the outside (right).  As we were crossing the tracks, the driver of a fast moving pickup truck decided to use a fair amount of this safety lane.  He missed T-boning us by about two feet.

At Yelm we picked up the Chehalis-Western Trail.  It was a relief to get a break from motorized traffic.  We met John near Rainier.  It was great to see him.  He had come a long ways back from a very bad cycling accident last October.  Now he was riding his new Bachetta Carbon Trike.


That carbon fiber trike

John presented us with sour dough bread he had made.  Peg revealed she too had become, during Stay at Home, a sour dough bread baker.

Peg had to turn around, at this point, but John accompanied us to the end of the trail – Tenino.  We said our good byes and then it was back to the business at hand – getting to Centralia.

Centralia is the largest town on the route (18,000) on Day One, big enough to have a Dairy Queen.  By now it was hot, so some cold items, consumed outside in the shade, lifted our spirits and energy. 

When we got rolling again, we found the trail that runs between Centralia and Chehalis.  The route next passes through the historic part of Chehalis.

After Chehalis, one is on quiet roads, but they can be hilly.  The first town we came to was Napavine.  We stopped briefly, in the city park.  There I just happened to refer to the map.  It showed we were at the closest point possible to I-5, until Longview.  I checked the distance and it would also be slightly shorter to take the freeway.  We decided to go for it!

For an interstate, the route was quite hilly.  It was also undeniably fast.  Crossing the ramps is quite dangerous.  I could do well enough, on my own, with my mirror, for the off ramps, but I hastily trained Donna to make the call for on ramps.  We were in Kelso/Longview in no time!  We had ridden 142 miles.  


The machine

That night we dined at the El Compadre Restaurant.

Day Two promised to be hot again.  Our good intentions, for an early departure, turned out to be 7:00 am.  This was not the best way to avoid traffic on Highway 30. 

As we attempted to cross over I-5 and descend to the actual course, we were again overcome by the interstate highway’s attraction.  Several interchanges later we finally exited into Kelso and headed for the Longview Bridge.

At the bridge we discovered the narrow shoulder was covered in wood debris that comes off logging trucks. It was a bumpy ascent.  At mid-span we were delighted to find out that at least Oregon doesn’t wait until STP to clean THEIR half of the bridge.  For the descent, we mostly took the lane, although the harsh joints instill a rather low speed limit.

And then we were on Highway 30, an experience generally less than loved by STP riders.  To emphasize this point, shortly after leaving Rainier (the first town encountered in Oregon), a speeding car came two feet across the fog line!  It was a straight stretch of road, with a wide lane.  The act seemed intentional.

Dangerous drivers notwithstanding, traffic remained light for a while.  We came upon the site of the first of two mini stops (during the actual event) and pulled in (for sentimental, as well as, bush reasons).  A guy on a bent, heading the other direction, pulled in to talk.  He said he’d seen quite a few cyclists, so far that morning, heading in the direction of Portland.  Since not a single cyclist had yet passed us (this day), that was another indication we had gotten a late start.

When we reached Saint Helens, the location of the last major food stop during the actual ride, we stopped at a gas station for consumables.  Then, as we passed by the high school - the site of the final official full scale food stop - I thought of the Saint Helens High School Band.  They always run the food stop and take donations to support their activities.  

After St Helens it was time for another near death experience.  A big part of my job, on high speed descents, is playing Pac-Man.  I watch for debris, on the shoulder, and do my best to avoid it.  Near the end of just one such descent, I noticed a large patch of gravel.  There was no way to avoid it, and braking, when coming into a patch of gravel, is very dangerous.  I had just enough time to glance into my mirror.  All I wanted was the fog line, just 4 fricking inches!  Wouldn’t you know it – there was a car camped on my left heel.  There were plenty of wide lanes, but there he was.  So, I hit the gravel at high speed.  I try not to get overly confident in the stability of a tandem, but its long wheel base, and generally wider tires (than on a single bike), can do a lot for ones survival.  Damned if, nearly immediately after that patch of gravel, was yet another patch!  The bike again performed splendidly.  I had to scream a few choice words (actually, just ONE choice word, repeated several times) to the universe.  Then it was back to the business at hand.

As Day 2 dragged on, the long suffering stoker started calling stands.  They must have worked because I commented this was the first time I’d ever heard her moan with pleasure.  She retaliated, based on being the navigator (she had the Garmin, but it was monitoring my HR) that it was the first time she’d ever noted my cold heart could have a beat.

We passed the site of the final official mini rest stop (now just a large, empty, paved area).

We pushed on and came to the sign that welcomes one to Portland.  Just as I took the photo, below, my phone rang.  It did not recognize the number, from Portland.  Suspecting it was Boozhay, I answered.  It was damn hard to hear, what with the by now heavy traffic on Highway 30, but I was able to make out that it was the car rental location in downtown Portland.  The guy said they were going to close at 1:00 pm.  It was 12:50 pm.  He asked if I could get there in the next 10 minutes.  I explained to him that Cadel Evans, in his prime, with all green lights, could not be there by 1:00 pm.  The guy said Boozhay’s airport location would honor my contract.  Then he bid me good day.


A final underwear adjustment, before the triumphal march into the Rose City 
We checked google maps.  Boozhay PDX also closed at 1:00 pm!  Sigh.  Fortunately there was another location, just passed the airport, open until 6:00 p.m.

We set a course, with google maps.  There were two small bits of good news, amidst this bad news:
  • We'd get to cross the St. Johns Bridge
  • We'd get to take the trail on the south side of the Columbia River, out to the airport
  • (OK, so I can’t count) – There’d be one last Near Death Occasion.  Who could not appreciate that?

St. Johns Bridge was spectacular.  All of the volcanoes were out, including Mt. Adams, which one sees between the bridges towers.

After the bridge, google maps started us meandering north.  We eventually came to an intersection with a red light.  There were three lanes: left turn, through and right turn.  We got into the through lane and waited for the green light.  Then we started into the intersection and were nearly side swiped by a guy in a pickup, going through from the right turn lane!

I yelled out “Right turn lane!”  IMHO, that seemed innocuous enough.  He slammed on his brakes, popped open his door and jumped out.  I found myself hoping that Donna would protect me.  To my relief, he didn’t come back.  He yelled that he was right, I was wrong – I had failed to read the sign.  Huh!?  I had NOT failed to notice that large, white, right turn arrow, painted on his lane, nor that there was only ONE lane, on the far side of the intersection.  I’ve been around transportation engineering standards for quite a few decades.  Merges WITHIN an intersection are considered very dangerous; they are never allowed.

So I yelled back at him, again repeating that it was a right turn lane.  This time I referenced him, using several choice adjectives.  Then he got into his truck and drove away.

The rest of the ride was pleasant.  Portland has some very impressive bike lanes and paths.  Oh, there was one more incident, this one purely friendly: a car pulled up alongside of us.  I was initially nervous but the driver called out, in a friendly voice, that they too had a Lippy tandem!  He stopped and we chatted a bit.  He said he’d bought it about 25 years ago and in more recent years given it a sexy pearlescent paint job.  It was a nice interchange.

The bike paths took us nearly up to the door of Boozhay.  The total mileage was a lucky 213.
The friendly woman, after first informing me that because of some computer issue she could NOT honor my pre-paid contract, came up with a Full Size.  As I coordinated pickup, and bike, with Donna, she translated: Full Size means just a big normal car (not SUV or anything else).  I started worrying a bit.

I got the vehicle out of the secure parking area and drove around the corner to the empty lot of a business closed on Sundays (or perhaps closed EVERY day, during pandemics).  There we assessed matters.  First we happily discovered that it was possible to fold down the back seats.  Then I folded down the front passenger seat.  Then Donna suggested I not do this prematurely.  She was so right: I removed the front wheel and slid the whole enchilada into this Honda Accord Sport via the trunk!!!  That’s right: not need to remove the rear wheel, fenders, rack, saddles, bars or pedals.  Zip, zilch, nada!!!!  Oh life was good – this was one big happy moment.


Tandem fits in Honda Accord Sport

We booked up 205 and 5, stopping at Castle Rock to pick up the box, back to Seattle!!  This took less than five gallons of gas.


Less than five gallons ot gas to return to Seattle

Saturday, April 18, 2020

2020 LA Marathon (not too much for the man)



Los Angeles

No Marathon Quite Like It  


Of the marathons I've run, there is none quite like Los Angeles.  The course passes through famous neighborhood after famous neighborhood, offering race participants nonstop entertainment, from Dodgers Stadium to the pier at Santa Monica.

The visit to LA, for the marathon, begins with packet pickup at the convention center in downtown LA.


The LA Convention Center

For this visit, I stayed in Baldwin Park, about twenty miles east of LA.  My intention was to do some hiking, after the marathon.

For some carbo loading, the night before the marathon, I went to the Guadalajara Grill.  An unexpected benefit was live entertainment.


Live music adds to ones dining pleasure

Hanging with 27,000 of my close friends.


The crowd of runners, for the 6:00 am start at Dodgers Stadium, takes more than one half hour to get passed the start line.


Thousands of runners approach the start

Quite a few runners wore shirts with Kobe Bryant's name on them.  Several of those runners were dribbling basketballs.

Drummers regale the runners, near the Disney Concert Hall

Disney Concert Hall

After leaving downtown LA, the course continues on famous streets - Sunset Blvd, Hollywood Blvd, San Vicente Blvd, Santa Monica Blvd, Rodeo Dr and Wilshire Blvd.

A notable landmark on the route
Fans entertain runners.  Time is about to tell if running is a cure.
The finish, at the Pacific Ocean, on Santa Monica Beach
Nearing the ocean, and the end of the course, a cooling breeze, off of the ocean, takes the edge off of the afternoon warmth.

 

The finishers medal is a great memento

Hiking  


The day after the marathon was a visit to some hiking trails in the SW foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.  The first trail was closed, the aftermath of a rainy season, several years ago.  The second choice was a bit more modest hike, but the day after a marathon, a short jaunt felt OK!

Monrovia Canyon Falls


Looking south, from the trail head

A Day in the City


It was time to be an urban tourist.


The Broad Museum, across the street from the Disney Concert Hall
Looking out from the museum
A large piece on display in the museum
Jean-Michel Basquiat
After visiting the Broad Museum, there was some time to walk around downtown, prior to visiting the Disney Concert Hall

The Perry Mason building, from Grand Park
The Disney Concert Hall
Organ Pipes

The Final Day of the Trip  


On the way to the Orange County Airport, there was time for a short hike.

Downtown LA, from Schabarum Trail
Volcanoes, from the plane


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Honolulu Marathon

Un Marathon ... pas comme les autres!

Signing Up

I hadn't necessarily planned to register for this event, when I visited its web site.  What I saw, on the home page however, sealed the deal:

There is no time limit and no limit on the number of participants. We wait for the last finisher to cross the line and all finishers get an official finishers shirt and awesome medal.

The event slogan - 26.2 Miles in Paradise - didn't hurt either.

The Expo

Like most marathons, prior to the event there is packet pickup at the expo.  This expo was held at the Hawai'i Convention Center, in the heart of Honolulu (not far from the race start).

The Convention Center is striking, with its tall glass walls and atrium, connecting the interior with the exterior.  The palm trees, on either side of the glass, reinforce this connection.

Marathon Expo at Hawaii Convention Center
The first thing I noticed, at the Expo, was that most signs were in Japanese.  Some signs included a bit of English, but many did not.  The main sponsor, JAL (Japan Airlines), had a large booth as well as a large reception area (I assumed for participants who had arrived in Hawai'i via JAL).

Unlike most marathons, I was informed that the event shirt was only available at the finish line.  This gave additional incentive to finishing.

The Start

It was a bit sobering to learn that the start was at 5:00 am!  At that time it is quite dark, of course, except this was in the heart of a rather large city, so seeing where to go would be no problem.  Additionally, to make navigation really easy, there would be 25,000 other runners, so one could merely follow the herd.  5,000 of those runners were doing the 10k.  Everyone started together.  The start was at Ala Moana Regional Park, located between Ala Moana Boulevard and the water.

It was already warm, 68°, before even starting.  The walk to the start had left me sweating.  For one who runs most of his marathons in the cooler part of the year, in the Pacific Northwest, it would be a hot day.

At the start (0:dark:00)

Once the start began, and the crowd oozed toward the start line, there were fireworks to add to the drama.

Fireworks after the gun has gone off (5:00) and I approach the start line

They came in all shapes and sizes (10:49:06)

Dawn on Kalakaua Ave
At the 10k point, the 10k runners finish in Kapiolani Park.  Shortly after the park, the course begins a one mile climb along the rim of the Diamond Head crater.  A few hundred meters before the crest, the first marathon runner came by.  Shortly behind him was the first participant in a hand crank vehicle.  Just over the crest I saw the second hand crank participant, still climbing.  He looked to be suffering greatly, but was still working very hard.

After a short descent, the course separated from the return route, headed north and started climbing again.  Sigh.  Then we headed northeast, leaving the crater behind.  We would be revisiting it, very late in the race.

Around the crater (numbers indicate distance, in miles)

Skirting Diamond Head (off to the left)
Shortly after Mile 11 the course joins the return route along Kalanianaole Highway.  For the next 4.5 miles we would see the suffering faces of those returning from the loop at the end of this long out and back.

Along Kalanianaole Highway
The loop goes around Kuapa Park.

Kuapa Pond

45 pounds (I asked) 
Coming out of the loop, and finally facing the finish, still a long distance away, one feels a psychological boost.  It was also a chance to see most of the remaining participants, still heading out.                                                                                                              

A lot of chutzpah (though his number was not in the finish results)


At the finish it was clear that the heat had taken a toll on me.  I felt queasy and found a column I could use to lower myself to the ground.  Eventually I got back on my feet and made it back to the AirBnb, to fetch my bag and head out to the airport.  Yeah, a shower would have been nice, but ones does what one can.

Back in Maui for sunset

Reflecting


I finished 14,659 of 18,803 total finishers (8,448 women, 10,355 men), with a time of 7:41:39.  At Los Angeles, nine months earlier, I finished 19,214 of perhaps 19,977, with a time of 7:32:00.  This is much more typical for me - near the very end.  So why does the Honolulu Marathon attract so many mature marathoners?  Perhaps because the  organizers state, right up front, that there is no time limit.  Maybe this is because, in Japan (where the vast majority of the participants came from) the elderly get some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  And least there be any doubt about this being a Japanese marathon, the price for the event photos is in yen.

Photo prices are in yen



Monday, July 15, 2019

Le tour à tandem vélo dans la Vallée de la Loire

Notre route

Nous avons commencé près de Saumur et avons fini à Chenonceaux.

Notre route


Les tourists

Nous étions dix équipes de tandem vélo. Neuf équipes étaient du côté est (des États Unis); ma co-pilot et moi étions le seul équipe du côté ouest.

La compagnie de tour - Adventures in Tandem - a pour ses propriétaires un couple de New Jersey - Mike et Caren.  C’était leur 13ème tour - nous avions de la chance ! 😉
  
Jour 1

Presque tous les membres du tour a passé la nuit avant dans un hôtel à l’aéroport Charles du Gaule.

Mike a transporté nos grandes valises - contenant des tandems - à Roiffé, dans la vallée de la Loire, pas loin de Saumur. Nous y avons suivi, dans un bus. Il y avait beaucoup de trafic à cause de la fin d’école, le jour avant. Je pensais que nous étions dans le film Les vacances de M. Hulot!

On y a passé deux nuits dans la Domaine de Roiffé (pendant les années de Napoléon, c’était un centre de détention pour mineurs).

Aussitôt que nous sommes arrivés à Roiffé, nous nous sommes occupés de l’assemblage des vélos. À mon avis, c’est toujours un miracle, quand plusieurs pièces viennent ensemble pour devenir un vélo, surtout un si long vélo !

Assemblage Requis

Il faisait très chaud, environ 33°C.

Le coucher du soleil

 
 Jour 2

En fin, l’occasion de voyager à vélo ! La visite principale aujourd’hui était le Château de Saumur. Le début de sa construction était en la Xem siècle.

La Rivière Loire
Château de Saumur
Château de Saumur
Peter et Niki
Ted et Dana
Il faisait chaud, environ 30°C.

 

Jour 3

La visite principale aujourd’hui était la Forteresse Royale de Chinon. Le début de sa construction était en la Xem siècle.


Chinon
Chinon
La Forteresse de Chinon

La forteresse de Chinon
Les armes de siège

C’était ici, en 1429, que Jeanne d’Arc est venue rencontrer Charles VII.


 
Une affiche qui ne flatte pas ni le roi ni l'église

Quelques kilometres plus tard nous passons par le Château du Rivau.


le Château du Rivau

le Château du Rivau
Au fin de la journée nous avons arrivé au Château de Marçay (15em), pour passer le nuit. 


le Château de Marçay

Avant le dîner, les chefs du tour ont annoncé l’équipe gagnante de la compétition pour le poids total (le moins) de leurs bagages : c’était notre équipe - 21.8 kg ! Le prix était une bouteille du limoncello (fait à leur maison) ! L’équipe avec les bagages le plus peseuses portaient 65.0 kg !














Adventures in Limoncello


Il faisait chaud, environ 30°C.


Jour 4

Il y avait deux visites principales aujourd’hui : le Château d’Ussé - le début de sa construction était en la XVem siècle ; le Château et parc de Langeais - le début de sa construction était en la Xem siècle.

Le Château d’Ussé inspira Charles Perrault pour son conte de fée Belle au Bois Dormant (en anglais, Sleeping Beauty).


Château d'Ussé
On arrive à Langeais par un pont dramatique.


La Loire

Le pont de Langeais

Le Château Langeais était reconstruit par Louis XI en 1465 après avoir était détruit par les Anglais lors de la guerre de Cent Ans.



Château de Langeais
Château de Langeais

Château de Langeais

L'événement le mieux connu dans l’histoire du château est le mariage de Charles VIII avec Anne de Bretagne, en 1491. Anne de Bretagne a eu juste 14 ans. C’était le deuxième de ses trois mariages, y compris à Maximilien de Habsbourg et à Louis XII.

C’était le pape Innocent VIII qui a annulé antidaté son première mariage, par procuration, avec Maximilien de Habsbourg.

Le château contient d'importantes œuvres d'art historiques.


Tapisserie de saint Jean-Baptiste
Langeais est une région connue pour sa production de vin rosé.

Seulement 25?  Personne n'a dit que la vie serait facile.

En fin de journée nous sommes arrivés à Villandry.

Balles de foin près de notre hôtel

Jour 5

C’était une journée tranquille à cause de l’option de rester à Villandry (donnant une pause bien méritée à notre vélo fiable). Nous avons marché au Château de Villandry. Le début de sa construction était en la XVIem siècle.

Les jardins sont merveilleux ! À bien des égards, ce paysage surprend et inspire.

Château






Jardin

Jour 6

Nous allons à Chenonceaux, le dernier stop de notre tour. Juste avant notre arrivée à Chenonceaux, il y avait une visite chez Père Auguste, pour la dégustation.  Nous avons aimé le rosé pétillant le meilleur.


Pour le diner, on était libre à explorer.  Nous avons trouvé une brasserie sympa - Les charmilles.


Bière à la pression

Une petite salade


Jour 7

Aujourd’hui notre course c’était, pour une très grande partie, une boucle étroite, sur des pistes du vélo. Nous sommes allés au Château Royal d’Amboise pour visiter la chapelle Saint-Hubert où Léonard De Vinci est enterré. Après, nous avons visité au Château du Clos Lucé et à son parc tranquille avec des représentations des inventions de Léonard de Vinci. Ces deux lieux étaient pleins de touristes, peut-être parce que 2019 fait 500 ans que Léonard est mort.


Château Royal d’Amboise


Chapelle Saint-Hubert

L'intérieure
Sa tombe

Après notre retour à l’hôtel, nous nous sommes occupés avec la désassemblage et l’emballage de nos vélos. À ma très grande surprise, tout cela est allé très vite.

Après le dîner, il y avait une visite nocturne des jardins, autour du château, avec des lumières et de la musique.










Jour 8

Aujourd’hui nous sommes parcourues à l’hôtel à Charles de Gaulle. En route, nous sommes arrêtés à Chartre, pour visiter la fameuse cathédrale, avec ses arcs-boutants.










Notre visite a coïncidé avec un mariage.





Nous avons monté les escaliers du tour pour visiter le grenier (l’espace entre le plafond et la toiture) de la cathédrale.




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