WELL, this isn’t exactly the after-action report I’d hoped I’d be writing; rather than regaling you with tales of the ride I am instead addressing the Tamarack Fire’s impact on the ride. LAST Friday I, along with a bunch of other vendors, were at the Expo and basking in the glory of the next day’s…
We were to meet our friend Mark in Markleeville IRL last summer for the Death Ride. The ride was postponed a year due to the pandemic and we elected not to make the trip this year. The ride should have been last weekend, but wildfire was roaring through the area and Mark and others were forced to evacuate. Click the link for his report. In his report there is a link to the GoFundMe page for fire relief.
My first ride just for fun since breaking(?) a toe. It went better than I expected. No pain. It only hurts to walk. Time to start training for the two centuries in September.
In honor of the people of Alpine County I wore my 1992 Death Ride jersey for tonight’s ride. The smoke from those western fires is here and we rode through smaze, the sun just an orange ball with no brightness.
We rode through rolling farmland. The hay was just cut and baled, so instead of amber waves of grain interspersed with corn, it is just stubble and corn. I still love the alternating deep green and golden brown of the fields as they follow the contour of the hillside. As an added bonus, we get trees in the wet area at the bottom.
While I have written of the lakeshore path on my morning commute, I tend to post photos of the lake as seen from the path, rather than the path itself. Today you get the path in early morning sunlight. The lake is at the right edge of the photo.
This weekend I hope to get out and ride some real miles. Thirty at a time doesn’t cut it when I want to ride 100 in a day in two months, then do it again the next weekend.
Tadej Pogačar has won the Tour de France. If you care, you already know that. If you don’t, there must be some other reason to read this.
Pogačar is the youngest rider to win the Tour twice. At 22, he is still eligible to win the Best Young Rider jersey three more times. He dominated the Tour, winning three of the four jerseys. He proved himself to be a well-rounded rider, winning a time trial as well as mountain stages. He proved himself to be an aggressive rider, attacking on climbs when he didn’t have to, when other riders would have been content to follow wheels and know they still kept the overall lead; and his joyous grin when he stood on the podium was infectious.
The green jersey is another story. Mark Cavendish is a one trick pony if there ever was one. While the story of his return is a good one (he was a late addition to his team), as a road racer he does only one thing well. He is the best in the world at accelerating from 40 to 45 mph over the course of 200 meters after being led to that point by his teammates. He tied Eddy Merckx’s all-time record for Tour de France stage wins. Merckx was a complete rider, winning sprints, time trials, mountain stages, the hour record, tours, one day classics… Cavendish wins sprints. He was very nearly the Lanterne Rouge (last place overall for the Tour), beating only two of the 141 riders to finish the race. One of those was his teammate and super domestique Tim Declercq (AKA “The Tractor”).
Cavendish’s hope to break Merckx’s record came down to the final stage. While the final stage is viewed as a formality in terms of the overall win, it is a big deal to others. Finishing with 8 laps on the Champs-Élysées, it gives breakaway riders a chance to be seen by millions out in front, not just out in front in some obscure spot in the French countryside. The breakaways are inevitably caught (this year not until the ultimate lap of the Champs-Élysées), to set up a final moment of glory for the sprinters. Here was Cavendish’s chance to break the record in front of the Paris crowd.
He was beaten to the line by Wout van Aert, a finish I find fitting. Van Aert is a complete cyclist. He won the stage up the iconic Mont Ventoux. He won the final time trial on the penultimate day of the tour, and then he beat Mark Cavendish in the final sprint. He also won the world cyclocross championship three times consecutively. When compared with Merckx after the tour, van Aert said, “Eddy Merckx won the GC of the Tour five times and he won basically every race in the world of cycling. I’m just a really little cyclist compared with Eddy.”
My new favorite bike racer is Guillaume Martin, author of “Socrate à vélo”. Martin is the son of an Aikido teacher and a drama teacher. He holds a Master’s degree in philosophy. “Socrates on a Bike” is said to place famous philosophers in the peloton and discuss them as bike racers with regard to their philosophies. I say “is said to”, as I am relying on the words of others from their reading in French and writing reviews in English. As I don’t read French and have not found the book in English, this is hearsay. Speaking of French, there was a time that French was the language of the peloton. To be accepted among Tour riders, one had to speak some French. At the end of this year’s tour, Tadej Pogačar, a Slovenian speaking in Paris, gave his speech in English. To me, that is sad. The ride is in France, the top three riders were Slovenian, Danish, and Ecuadorian, and he spoke English to the crowd. [Editor’s note: I briefly passed through Richard Carapaz’s home town of Tulcán, Ecuador, just over the border from Ipiales, Colombia, in 1982. Sadly, I have no memory of the town, with my first stop being in Ibarra, 126 km to the south.I found my journal from that trip. There was not much about Tulcán, but I did find this, written in Colombia in my last days before returning to the US (March, 1982): “The brain can efficiently store and retrieve just so many visual images…and to share those images with another is then difficult, indeed. My poor head overflows with images that will remain primarily private…”]
The Death Ride
The 2021 edition of the Death Ride was to have been Sunday, July 18. It was billed as the 4oth Anniversary and the “Death Ride Resurgence.” The 2020 edition was billed the same way but canceled due to the pandemic. This year’s was canceled at the last minute due to encroaching wildfire. Mark, please post a comment here to let us know you’re OK.
Back on the bike
I was able to remove my toe splint without cutting it off, so the swelling is down. Saturday I was able to clip into a pedal – I’ve been riding with one foot clipped in and the other with my heel on the pedal to avoid pressure to the broken toe. I still walk funny, pushing off from my little toe instead of my big toe, but I think I am ready to rejoin the Wednesday Night Bike Ride. This week is a hard and hilly route, so we’ll see.
Or maybe just the kayak
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats…in or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems to really matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination, or whether you reach some where else, or whether you never get anywhere at all…” The Water Rat in The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I guess I’ll hit the water now…
It was sunny, hot, and humid when I left work. A light wind; a great day for a ride.
I arrived early at the meetup point. Someone said there was a thunderstorm in Dodgeville headed straight toward us. As I waited for my friends to arrive, I checked the radar. A thunderstorm cell was headed our way and looked like it would arrive just as we were to start. The air turned cool. The wind died. The sky turned dark. The wind picked up. A few raindrops fell.
The rain stopped. I checked the radar. The storm cell had changed from a yellow to a green spot and had veered south. It would be raining on the roads we were to ride, but would probably move east ahead of us. We saddled up and hit the road.
I had forgotten to bring a cue sheet, but these were roads I know well. I rode the 30+ mile route from memory. We rode on some slightly damp roads but never felt more than a few drops, just enough to cool us down a bit.
As we rode along Dougherty Creek, we came upon a steep and deeply verdant hillside with a small herd of Brown Swiss cattle. I imagined this is what Switzerland looks like and why the Swiss settled here and called it New Glarus.
The ridgetop vistas were stunning, as usual. The corn is probably neck-high. The short and steep climb from Dougherty Creek to the ridge seemed easier than usual. The broad sweeping curves we carved at 35+ mph on the descent into town brought ear-to-ear grins to our faces. Pizza and beer closed out the evening.
I raced a train to work today. As I approached the tracks that I would parallel, I heard the crossing bells. I didn’t hear a train horn so I figured the engine was not nearby. Rounding a bend I saw hopper cars going my way. It was time to guess – if I was near the end of the train I could head for the nearest crossing and wait; if I was near the head of the train I could try to outrun it and cross up ahead.
I figured action beats inaction so I continued parallel to the tracks, and upped my speed. Approaching Brearly Street I heard the train horn. I was gaining, and knew I’d made the right choice. Approaching Paterson I saw the engine and knew I could pass it. I had three more chances to cross before I would have to revise my route. Approaching Livingston I heard the crossing bells come on and knew I couldn’t make it there. I found a reserve and went faster. As I approached Blount Street I knew I could make it. I heard the engineer back off the throttle a bit for the upcoming curve. Just then, the warning bells started. I had the train by more than a block, it was moving at 12 mph, and I could go just a bit faster than I was already. The crossing was a new one with rubber at the tracks so it was a smooth crossing. After I crossed, I backed off. As I turned on Main Street I saw the engine cross Blount. I felt the burn in my lungs from a hard effort. I still had 4.5 miles to cool down before I got to work.
Taking it easy, I made the turn to Carroll Street. The walk light at Johnson was on, which meant I knew I could make that crossing. It started to blink “Don’t Walk”, which meant I could make it as long as I didn’t dilly dally; my light would turn yellow on the 11th blink. I made the crossing and now I could sit up and take it easy the rest of the way. I could get to the wooded lakeshore path and enjoy the beauty of a cool and crisp morning – a morning that required a jacket. I could watch the dappled sunlight filtered through the trees. I could look out over the sailboats gently swaying on their moorings. I could wave to the early morning runners. And I could arrive at work way earlier than I planned, thanks to that early morning sprint.
Strawberry season is here, but getting out to a berry patch to pick is another issue. Cherries, on the other hand, are just a short walk from here. This morning I picked two pies’ worth, and this afternoon, they became two pies.
Wheaties calls itself the Breakfast of Champions, but I would argue that title should go to cherry pie a la mode with a cortado. To call that the Breakfast of the Half-fast doesn’t do it justice.
I had a great adventure last week. I did the Wednesday Night Bike Ride with a friend. Spine-tingling adventure already, eh? Riding next to someone with whom I don’t live! Then he suggested we go out to dinner. I hadn’t been in a restaurant since February 23, 2020. You might ask why I remember that specifically. That’s not the point, so I won’t answer. If you really must know, ask in the comments.
My first reaction was a bit of trepidation. Then I wondered what the point of being vaccinated is if I don’t change my behaviors. So we went to a restaurant where we could eat outside. The nearest other patron was 10 feet away. I figured tequila and lime are both anti-viral [ed. note: requires citation] so I drank a Margarita to be safe. A little salt on the rim was to replace lost electrolytes. I drank tequila and ate tacos in a public setting and lived to tell about it.
I rode a new route through familiar territory. Some roads I hadn’t seen, some others in different directions or different sections. Contour farming and intercropping make for great contrasts. I believe I found a new ride to add to the list of favorites. (The new-for-2021 Mt Vernon route, for those from around here, offered four options from 13 to 42 miles and was called the “Get Lost Ride”. We ended up getting lost and making our own route by combining a couple of them when we made a wrong turn and didn’t want to backtrack. That leaves another valley to explore another time.)
Knee-high by the 4th of July is what they say for corn around here. Even with the drought, this is well past the knee, and this is not the tallest corn we saw. Is it new hybrids, GMOs, overuse of fertilizer?
The weather was perfect. Cool and cloudy with a few drops of rain to add suspense. It was windy but, for some reason, seemed to be a tailwind most of the time. (Like having more than one favorite ride, I consider more than one kind of weather perfect for riding. I might have once said there is no such thing as bad weather for riding, just not the right clothes.)