Day by day in Jefferson

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First 10 miler

Ah, man. I got a new pair of bib knickers and was trying them on and decided, well, might as well ride. It’s 35 out and I’m cold already, but what the heck? So, underwear, then bib knickers (not insulated) and sweat pants over. Shoes and thick socks. Long sleeve shirts, then a thick sweatshirt. Beanie under the helmet. Headphones.

Swipe the iphone to get the app working. Mount my new tail light! Woo hoo! Sucker is BRIGHT! Pump up tires. OK, let’s ride. Down to Pearson, a mile down from the house. 1/4 mile to the trail. And up we go. First two miles I’m hating life. Everything but my butt hurts. Been eight days since I rode. And I feel it. I pause at 3.1 miles for three minutes. Why 3.1? No reason. It had nothing to do with passing the high school and there being no kids or walkers on the path. It didn’t.

Three minutes, three ozs of h20. Pull up the sweats so they don’t catch and off we go again. Today, it’s Destroyer and Detroit Rock City playing through the headphones. App says I’ve reached 2000′. Started at 1650′. Pull over again. Rest three more minutes. Slug down 3 more ounces of water. Actually feeling pretty good. Legs don’t bother me – ass does. Lungs do. Heart has slowed down and so has breathing so… off we go. I usually (twice now) turn at Rocky Road and head back but I cross the road and keep going. Up past the 7/11 Quickee Mart thing. Feeling pretty good, except for my back. I had switched from using the center of the pedals beneath the center of my foot to under the ball. I liked how I spun like that. Till now. Now my back is really hurting bad – bad. I decide to HTFU and keep going. Up to the end of the trail and a graceful u-turn and back down. Two hundred yards and the woman who I just passed at 5.1mph covered in sweat I now pass at 15mph and the sweat is freezing on my forehead. I yell ‘on your left’ and she’s confused about which side that means and jumps off the trail yanking the little dog. That was funny. I wave as I go by.

Down over Clark and a little climb (funny, don’t remember coming DOWN hill on this section!) and back to downhill. Adjust butt which is on fire. Even with new padded knicker bib things. Left on Rocky Road. Pedal hard in 12th gear. Oh yeah – foggotta mention I never dipped below 2nd on the way up and spent most of the time in 3rd-6th!!! I pay myself on the back. Get up speed only to slam on those disc brakes as I come up to Wagstaff and there’s cars galore. Slink across and pedal in 10th. 9th. 8th. Up over the corner and onto Clark. It’s (literally) all down hill from here. Off the sidewalk and in the street and pedaling in 19th. For all I’m worth. App shows 32mph. Speed limit is….uh oh…30. Slow down ever so slightly. Run the red at Central Park and slow down a lot cause my turn is … now. Hard right followed by more braking and hard left and I’m in the driveway. 10.1 miles. 664 calories. 532′ of elevation change. It’s all good.

‘Cept my sweats are caught on the seat and I fall over in my own driveway. Sigh.

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Trek 8.3 DS – and a few changes

OK, so back in November, 11/5 to be more precise, I was able to buy my first bike in about 35 years. Probably closer to 40, but I’m not counting. Last year, I did buy a used TerraTrike Tour and found that leaning back, plus the leg pain and all, was not for me.

Truth be told, I’m not sure how I would feel riding one now with the majority of the gut gone. It really had a lot to do with the troubles of riding the trike. Too, TerraTrikes just aren’t that great. Perhaps the newer ones are, I don’t know. Mine was about 5-6 years old and had maybe 10 miles on it when I got it. I did get that verified by a TT dealer. He wondered if it had EVER been ridden! The quality is very low on the older TT trikes. Again, I can’t say whether that trend continues. They are among the lower priced trikes out there but that does NOT mean they are cheap. You’ll drop an easy $1500 on a low-mid range model. Most of the 8-10 models they offer have different ‘trim’ levels, like a Chevy, so you can get a high trim line, lower end one for about $1500 or a low trim line, mid-range model for about the same. Most decent trikes are well over the $2000 mark. Many top $4000 and still quite a few are over $5000.

I know the same is true of high end bikes, but you can get a very decent bike for around $500-700. Which is what I did.

I went to the Giant and Specialized dealers. I also checked out the Trek dealer. I wish I had seen the Cannondale Bad Boy lineup, but I didn’t. Trek was the one that ended up catching my eye. Normally, I research the hell out of things on the ‘net before buying. Be it a flashlight, an incubator or a blanket, I check out reviews and web sites and forums. Why I did not do that first with my bike is still a mystery to me. Which, I guess, means I’m even luckier having bought the Trek. Cause it is one fine machine.

I ended up getting the Trek 8.3 DS or Dual Sport. The .3 is the third trim level of six available. They start around $500 and go up to nearly $2000. Between 3 and 4, the primary differences are hydraulic disc brakes instead of mechanical and better tires. The cost difference is about $2-300. Since I did NOT want hydraulic discs, I guess I was in luck.

I am jumping ahead of myself here. First, I should say I knew I did not want a ‘road’ bike. I knew I did not want a mountain bike, either. I wanted aspects of both. Living in the hills with lots of fire trails and such around me, I knew the skinny tired road bike with the drop bars (really never going to work with my back) was something I wasn’t going to do much with. I actually thought I wanted more of the mountain bike features than road bike. Really, I knew what I wanted more than I knew what I didn’t want.

What I knew I wanted was: disc brakes, shocks, and an upright sitting position.

Disc brakes are nice for up here – they work better in the rain and wet and won’t fail if there’s some mud or debris at the rim level. So I did ok there. Some would disagree, I don’t care.

Shocks, well, shocks were an absolute. One of the few things the sales guy actually told me – and it was very few – was that the shocks probably wouldn’t be that much help on the trails I wanted to ride. They would also (and I would have known this had I done research) take some energy away from my pedaling and put it into the pogoing of the shocks on level ground. This is the action of them going up and down as you pedal – fine when you’re on bumpy trails and off-road, not so fine on level pavement. I know now that I could have had a lighter bike with perhaps some better running gear for the same money. Trek makes the FX lineup and I could have bought the 7.4 disc for about the same money. Oops.

I will say that, even with what I just said and what I’ve learned, the shocks do help on the road to a degree: sometimes I ride the sidewalk and up and down over driveways, plus the broken concrete is much nicer with the shocks. Once spring comes and I can ride in the dirt a bit more, they probably will do a little more for me. So the shocks are a draw.

The upright position is also something I changed. Without some kind of beach cruiser setup, you’re going to lean over. Turns out my back appreciates that more than putting all my weight on it alone. Leaned over, you put 20-40% of your weight on your arms, which in turn means less weight on my bad back. Big plus. So… neither a win nor loss since I didn’t get the upright position I wanted. Win for the position I did get.

So I went in to the Trek dealer armed with these things I wanted. I also knew I wanted a triple up front and at least eight gears in the rear.

The fact is, I knew less of what I didn’t want and really didn’t know why I wanted the things I wanted. I knew (whether right or wrong) that discs were better than rim brakes. I knew this cause all the trikes had disc brakes. Well, most did. Some had drums, like cars from the 60’s. I didn’t know enough about what I wanted or why.  My assumptions were just that and some, like the triple chainring up front and discs were holdovers from my trike days. I didn’t know enough about modern bikes to do comparisons or really shop.

The real reason I ended up buying Trek was that they offered me a credit card – no other maker has one! Sigh.

OK, the painful truth is out.

So, I went in knowing one other thing: I was getting a Trek.

The sales guy started out by suggesting a ‘comfort’ bike. I actually liked the look and all: big seat for my big ass. Shock under the seat. Upright seating. Oh no! No discs. Without telling him why, I said no. I went over to the mountain bikes. I had checked out the store and their inventory and saw a nice mountain bike (MTB) that was about $800 that had a nice Fox shock fork and disc brakes. Seemed good. I pointed that one out and he pulled it for me.

What should have happened here was some sort of measuring to see if the bike would fit me. Instead, he aired up the tires and sent me for a ride. Pushing it along (pedaling, not walking) just felt very difficult. I don’t know whether it was the bike MTB tires or what, but it wasn’t right. So he set me up on a slightly bigger model along the same lines. It was about $600, so it was cheaper. Did have disc brakes – that much I can tell you. Same thing. Pushing it along is just not fun.

While I’m out on this second ride, my sales guy goes on break. I talk to a girl when I get back. I say ‘it would be nice if there was something like a dual purpose bike’. She points out the dual sports or DS line. Hmm. AH! Disc brakes. OK. I’ll try this one. Still more difficult than I’d like. She finally pulls the bike that will be mine: the 2013 8.3 DS in Blue and White. OK, I wanted black and something but ok. This one rides so much nicer! I feel like I’m not pushing it along, but riding it. Not like I’m forcing it to move. I like the feel and the riding position.

One thing: I’ve not discussed it yet with my girlfriend. So, being a bit guilty, I decide I’ll come back.

An hour later, I’m back and I’ll take it. But it has a nearly solid plastic seat. No padding. And despite my huge weight loss, I still need some padding for my ass. So I pick…a woman’s seat. The girl helps me and shows me a man’s seat with some great padding. Lots of padding and gel. Perfect. What else? A small bag for my phone and keys. My plan is to ride the trails of Chico and so I’ll be driving down from the Ridge to the flatlands so I know I’ll need a place for my bit o’ gear. What else? Eh, that should do it.

A few questions about the warranty and they pull it in back to the shop to go over it and install my stuff.

Twenty minutes later, she’s back. I take her outside and realize…. I have no idea how to put this brand new bike in the back of my truck and get it home without scratching it! It doesn’t even have a kickstand. Which wouldn’t help much in the bed of a truck anyhow. I quickly find out that the bed of my Frontier is too short to just lay the bike down. CRAP! I really didn’t think this through. I get it in and get on home.

About forty minutes later, I’m suiting up. For me, I have a pair of bike shorts from my trike days – two sizes too big. Doesn’t matter, they have some padding. Pair of sweats over it. Plus a tshirt and I’m off. I’m not going to go over the ride since I do that at length here on the blog, but within a half mile, my rear hurts so bad I can’t sit down. I still manage almost three miles.

NOW I start reading. I decide what I need: tires and probably some pedals. Oh, and something has to be done with those grips! I check out the Trek website and find a set of integrated bars and nice grips. Iso-Zone is what Trek calls them. Again, a too-quick decision cause the construction of these bars means no bar end grips nor mirrors. But I KNOW what I want. Again.

I do some more checking and find my pedals: Wellgo B-67’s. Those actually ARE a great choice. I’m NOT clipping in, at least not for a good long time.

I do a second 3 mile ride and take her down to the shop. Shifting up to the middle ring on the front is a chore and I know that shifter needs some work. Plus my bars are in. I have the pedals in hand that I found only on eBay! The shop installs all this, plus my new seat (second new one). Today I ride in town.

My ass makes it two miles before the pain sets in but I ride seven miles. I decide I’m not going to find my seat at the store, so I do some research, discard what I learn and buy a Selle. Do a couple rides while I wait for it to arrive. Both in town and both around 4 miles. Ass is still hurting but each ride it makes it a little longer. The Selle arrives.

This time, I install the seat. Boy, I’m getting salty. I can install a seat. And my seat bag. Woohoo. I’m a real bike mech.

For my next ride, I head down to the flat land again. Now I have a rail-based fork mount in my bed. The Frontier has rails along the sides and floor which allow you to mount various things  – like fork mounts. You pull the front wheel via the quick release – which isn’t all that quick, but that’s for another post – and mount the fork dropouts on this bar and a lock tightens down. NICE.

Down on the flats and ride my new seat. It hurts at about 5 miles. Improvement.

That takes us to now – new bars with grips (Iso-Zone), pedals (Wellgo B-67’s), bolt-on the seatpost rack plus my little seatbag. Just got my Niterider 500 headlamp and .5 watt taillamp. Going to return the tail lamp as I wanted the 2watt USB charge-able one. Without glasses, I didn’t notice that was NOT what I got. ARRRGGG!!!! And I did research it this time!!!!

So that takes us to today. I’ve got my Trek DS 8.3 with a few changes. Next has really got to be tires. Really. And maybe a Shimano Alfine 11 speed IGH.

Riding Bidwell

My original intent when purchasing my bike was to ride the flatlands of Chico. There are many bike trails and more than a few parks to ride through. In spring and fall, plus parts of winter, these trails can be absolutely gorgeous. I leave out summer because nothing, save perhaps beef stew and brownies, is gorgeous when it is over 100 degrees. What really happened is that, like most things, I’d not considered everything in my intent. I’m a master – absolute zen freakin’ master – at the middle-level of detail. Nothing above this level escapes my notice or commentary. Likewise, my attention to detail when it comes to planning often finds the minutia lacking. So I’d not considered things like: how to transport the damn bike, the cost of going down and back, how I would dress for that portion of the trip or how long those trips would take.

Naturally, I didn’t account for these because these details – and knowledge of myself and how much I hate all the prep work involved in things (fuck getting ready – let’s dance!) while strangely enough loving the ritual of all things preparatory – would have made the dream of riding in Chico out to be a personal nightmare.

Still, I wanted to try out riding the flats after finding the hills both fun and challenging. I figured then the flatlands, with the lack of needing to climb, would be just plain fun. Again, that lack of attention to the smaller details would damn me. The devil, as they say, is in the details.

Get all the gear together for the ride – helmet, shirts, layers of pants (tights and sweats), shoes. Get a separate batch of clothes for after. Don’t want to walk around in sweaty nastiness after, right? Grab bike, throw it up in the bed of the truck, pull front wheel (why do they call these quick release when they still require all the work?) and lock the forks into the fork mount. Toss the front wheel in the back seat. Check again (giving knowledge of my lack of attention to detail) that I have things like wallet and iPhone. Proceed down Skyway.

1 gallon of gas and $4.20 less rich, reverse process. Get back in cab, slip off jeans, throw on sweats. Put on headphones and get proper app going. Helmet on. Check out bike. Make sure front wheel is actually on, given that I took it off. No wiggle. Get on bike. Worry some that truck will be here when I get back… it’s insured. So.. up to upper park or down through lower? Lower is flatter. Lower it is.

On bike, up on saddle. Off saddle, pull damn sweat pants up so they don’t catch on saddle horn again. Back up on saddle. Headphones pumping out some Pink Floyd ‘Echoes’. Strangely works. Off to the trail. Last look at what I hope is not my last look at my truck. Chicoans excel in stealing cars. Down the trail.

Bidwell is divided roughly into two pieces, lower and upper. Lower is flat and has picnic grounds. Upper is divided further into about 2/3rds of which is anything but flat and contains the dead bodies of other fat bikers who thought they could make the trails and 1/3 mostly flat. This is why I’m riding towards lower. While I’m headed for Lower, I’m parked in Upper and that’s where I’m starting. Down the trail for a bit, PF echoing (ha ha ha) in my headphones, down under the separation between Upper and Lower proper and back up the other side. Why is it that people can’t understand that bikes have to maintain the proper left/right lane deal on trails? Do the same idiots who ride on the left side of a trail also drive on the left side when they leave pavement? Puzzling.

Down the left side of the park trails. One of the two Chico Creeks (Little or Big, can’t remember which) runs through the park, dividing it further. Amazing naming convention given this is a university town, yes? Perhaps big and little, upper and lower is all the alcohol-addled brains of those students who go here could handle when naming came up. Or it was done by cowboys. Not sure. This left side has creek to the right, house backyards to the left. And large numbers of walkers, runners and riders. Some walkers have poopers, also known as dogs. I will be forced to ride through several poop piles on this ride.

Middle-level detail number one: bike is not rolling as it should. In other words, effortless. On level ground – check. Properly inflated – check. On pavement – check, check. So why is it still taking so much effort? Freakin brochure promised effortless pedaling. That was in the brochure…right? No mind. Echoes still playing – it is a long song – off again. It’s late fall and all the color is in full display. Birches and oaks line the path. So does dog poop. First pile ran through. Thank goodness for fenders. Nod hello to other males on path. Wonder for a moment if nodding to females is permitted – and why there should be a difference.

Song finally switches to Shamus. I’ve never had headphones or music while ‘working out’. When watching others, whether in my sporadic (meaning less than ten times in fifty years) trips to the gym or watching runners or cyclers, I never got the whole music while working out thing. I have no idea why. I’d never tried it myself and now that I have – nirvana. Simple as that. Just wonderful. True, I’m not pumping Judas Priest or some other ‘workout’ music (JP is workout music, right?), but I have it on the iPhone. Still Pink Floyd in my ears while riding my bike. Wow.

Keep on going while app announces that I’ve already hit 1 mile. Cool. Calorie count, compared to that of hill climbing, is way down, but so is effort. With the exception of how much perceived effort there is to keep the thing rolling. I’m used to a steady cadence while climbing – I get that. What I don’t get is why I can’t coast for ore than about 30 feet while riding the flat lands. I might change tires.

Down through the trees and now some Temple of the Dog comes on. Nice! I didn’t even know I’d set up a playlist. Although a longtime tech freak, my attention to detail often means I don’t know everything about every piece of tech I own. What fun would that be anyway? TotD is better riding music than Echoes. I get it, I get it.

Two miles. Three miles. Over the bridge just past the underpass for the freeway. The (Big or Little) Chico Creek glides silently beneath me. Silent except for the Mad Season that is now playing. Back up the trail. This side is much more popular, judging by the number of runners, walkers, moms pushing weird things that I’m guessing carry babies or toddlers or probably teenagers in this freaking lazy nation and other cyclers. I ignore those I can, weave around the others and nod to the cyclers. When I rode a Harley, we had this thing called the low wave. Left hand extended down and out as you passed. Way cool. That’s replaced by the nod for cycling. No matter how cool the bike, they are never going to approach the cool factor of a Harley. Sorry.

Five miles and six. Finally some Priest! And Maiden! Up the Irons! Seven miles. Testament playing ‘Souls of Black’. Eight miles. Never have I done eight miles. Almost back to the lower part of Upper. Down under the tube and up again. Nine miles. And there’s the Blue Mule! The truck has survived. Me too.

Off comes the front wheel, bike in the bed and hooked up to the fork holder. Gear comes off. Some water goes in. Yeah, remembered the headphones – forgot the water bottle. Wrong sense of priorities. Rest and try to look cool having just ridden….well, ridden more than I ever have. That’s an accomplishment. For me. 440 calories. Oh! and 220′ of elevation change. Huh. Didn’t know that. I’m pretty happy.

I decide to go off to the bike store and get myself a little something. Yeah, like teflon tires. Hmm. Tires.

Ascending Paradise

I’m starting to get this route down. Even my app has it named correctly and reports it to the web with accuracy. I’d prefer it lie a little – maybe they can get a fishermen/programmer to write the next version. Today was much warmed than my last ride – must be like 54 out there. F not C. So I went with helmet, tshirt under sweatshirt, underwear under sweat pants and socks and shoes. Oh, and some old Harley gloves I have. Turns out, I have about seven pairs of them. All in classic Harley black which goes with everything.

So it takes a lot less time to get ready this time. Slip everything on, grab the phone, put it in the new SlipGrip holder (check them out – awesome stuff!) and dial in the music app. Left glove on, right off to fasten the helmet buckle and start the bike app. Check pressure. A few pumps. Good to go. Out the door and up the driveway and GOD DAMN IT. I forgot the headphones again. Turn around. Once without them is plenty. OK, glove back off, stop, delete ride. Run in, grab headphones, ready. Turn ON headphones. Now ready. What jerkoff asswipe corporate pennypinching punk made the labels so small on headphones? They were easier to read when I was a kid.

Check the music – good playlist of Motorhead (Iron Fist), some Green Day (again), Metallica, Mad Season and Temple of the Dog. I won’t need all this so chose shuffle to ensure I get at least a couple songs of each. And off we go. Up the short court (short now – killed me first ride) and down the first leg. Almost exactly a mile to the bottom starting point of the climb. Takes four minutes. Average speed just over 10 mph. This time, hit the trail and not the park walking trail. Nice. Looks like I know what I’m doing. Gear down almost immediately to second. Start spinning. See, the incline at this point is minimal and I don’t have to mash – yet. Spin for a while, focusing on how my legs are moving , how they tilt and go up and down. Motorhead plays – abuses “Religion”. I keep my attention on Lemmy and cadence.

I’m convinced that, now that I’m going to ride, going to go through the pain, that it’s going to be worth it. In other words, I’m not going to laze through the climb. I want to keep the cadence – and therefore heartrate – up. Spinning works, so does a higher gear and a little pushing. So up to third. Push and push and push and back down to second. Then I spot them. Four teens on the trail. Holy spinning bat spit what time is it? 3:15???? I left when school lets out?? About half the kids – the ones that aren’t pussies and get their moms to pick them up – walk the trail. Terrific. Great. I’m riding, already in 2nd gear, pulling nearly 6.1 mph and now I’m going to be passing kids. Did I mention my huge enormous self-confidence issue? The one NOT made better by me already panting, ney, gasping for air and the app hasn’t announced the two mile mark yet? I roll past the kids who pay no more attention to me than they did all day to their teachers. I relax a bit and check cadence. Shoot, another grouping. Why do they move like that, in groups? Are they afraid of gangs? In our completely whitebread, mostly retired (even a large number of still living retired Nazis from what I’ve heard) town of 24000? Or is it just the want-to-belong mechanism? One thing, they aren’t going to acknowledge me nor move so I can remain on trail rather than mud/pine needles. Bastards. At least you’ll grow up in a world even more messed up than ours! And I helped screw it up! HA! Revenge.

Ah, crap, never mind. Down to 1st. Already in 1st. Incline has increased, cadence has decreased. Heart rate up, sweating and drippings from nose all present. Great. Must wait for gangs…er groups… to pass so I can pause. Catch my breath a bit. As mile 2 is announced, I notice that my ass doesn’t hurt yet! An improvement. Groups passed, I take a rest. Just straddle the bike, grab the h2o and take in the 3oz I can swallow. One limitation of the gastric bypass is the ability to take on liquid. Pouch is limited to 3-4oz – no matter the input. Makes keeping hydrated a challenge. I keep it under a minute. Foot on right pedal, push up to seat. Damn. It. To. Hell. Sweat pants catch on seat and pull down, exposing fat ass. Great. Check behind. No teens. Whew. No Amber alert about some guy on a bike flashing high schoolers. Pull UP sweats and off we go. Minute break was all I needed. Now this is my tenth ride, I’m getting some things down. I know where to put my ass on the seat, feet on the pedals, hands on the bars. Green Day does “She” from Dookie. Favorite GD album. Yes album. It doesn’t imply vinyl – it implies a collection. So album for me.

It’s all uphill for at least 3 more miles. Sounds like nothing but it’s  a lot to a former fat guy on his tenth ride. Feel like I can’t make it – KNOW that I can. Ride to app says mile 4. Also tells me that my speed was 6.4mph and average speed, which by now has dropped to whatever current speed is on previous rides, is still 8.2mph! More signs of improvement. That does not make the climbing easier. Still spinning in second gear. From mile 1 through mile 5, it’s solid uphill without a single foot of level or downhill – ever. From 1250′ to 2000′. Mile 4 is rest time. Again. Panting. I’ll rest two minutes. I’ll gasp for two minutes. Stomach/pouch still complaining from last fluid, so I forgo that. Two minutes is up – so are my drawers. Up on the seat, off up the trail.

From here, I have a couple choices: before I hit mile 5, I can turn right and head down and back to home. If I keep going up, I can get about 2 more miles in before I run out of trail. I’ve done it before. As I hit mile 5, the choice is easy and a graceful right turn is made. Speed picks up. App tells me I’m at 12mph, 2104′ elevation, 5 miles. Up the gear range getting some speed and power on the slight decline and level section. Hit the main drag and start the very fast descent. I go this way for two reasons: 1) faster downhill and 2) the other way has one last climb I’ve not made without walking. I don’t like to walk. Turn past the bank, jump a couple bad sections of pavement and speed piles on. Off to the left on the other side of the street, some kid on a mtb that cost as much as my laptop sees me and flies across the street. First driveway he pulls a wheelie which he rides across the green light and back up over the curb onto the sidewalk and down the sidewalk. Showoff.

Mile 6 chimes in (interupting Mad Season) and telling me I’m going 33 mph and rapidly descending. Duh. Mile 6.3 and a slower right turn and down into my court. 45 minutes, 6.3 miles, one aired-out ass. Can’t wait to do it again.

The Morning After and the Ride

DLR-3833Six days of rain beginning before the First of December. Not unheard of in Jefferson, but unusual. According to ParadiseWeatherWatch.com, over 42″ of rain in seven days. Wait, whaatt? 42″ ? That’s…. 3 1/2 feet! Indeed. It was also 50mph winds, power outages and creek overflows. That’s all before Winter. Yikes.

After the six days, PGE cleaned up, PID cleaned up, I cleaned up.

Then I hopped on my Trek for a quick ride. It’d been six days since I was able to ride – not a huge length of time. Except when you consider I’d been riding (inclusive of today) for exactly 30 days. One fifth of the time I’d had to wait.

I pumped up the tires to 60psi, threw on multiple layers, winter gloves and got the iPhone charged. After getting my new cycle app to connect up to the new website that tracks these things, I was off. My intent was 10 miles. I also planned to be rich by age 30. Neither plan, as it turned out, came to fruition.

Up my court, right on the connector and down the main drag. Hit 30mph – scary stuff when protected by a long sleeve shirt under a sweatshirt. I did have a helmet and some decent shoes. Covering my ass was a pair of lycra long pants and some sweats. Plus Harley gloves. Not exactly world-class protection, but then, not much will make it so the impact of 3000lbs of steel is going to feel like a kiss.

Hit the Taco Bell and turned right. No, I didn’t eat at Taco Bell, I just meant that was my landmark. Green Day is playing on my headphones. Just past the senior center and the app tells me I’ve gone a mile. It’s pretty cool – I have it set up to tell me at intervals (currently at each mile and every ten minutes) how far, how fast, average speed, number of calories burned and total elevation change. I like tech stuff like that. My girlfriend laughs at me that I’m pleased by that.

Down the road to the church school and left. Down a bit more to the cross-town main road and a bit of uphill climbing. Shift down, down, down, pump the pedals. Think about whether I’m spinning or mashing and wondering which was which. No matter. Past the people waiting for the bus (you can tell how expensive gas is by how many people are at bus stops) and hard right into the park.

Level out, try to figure where the dang bike trail is. Oh, it was the turn I missed. Right. Do I go down the wet grass slope to the trail? This is a question for two reasons: one, I probably should respect the grass in a park and not ride on it and give bikers a bad name and two, there’s a bunch of people at the bus stop who will see me fall should I blow it. Who cares, down the grassy slope. Hit the trail perfectly. No one paid attention. (Of course, all those who did not pay attention would have seen – and most likely video’d and had it up to YouTube before I picked myself up had I failed.) Shift down, down, oh crap no more down gears. Mash or spin the pedals. Up hill I go.

Every single inch of the trail is covered in pine needles, leaves and cones. My dual-purpose tires, the ones I’ve been considering switching for roadie tires, slip and slide on the wonderful bit of nature strewn all over. In some places where the water pushed hard enough, there’s mounds of the stuff blocking the pavement. I’m talking six inch high mounds. Like every ten feet. I kid you not. As I ride, it’s easy enough to tell where the torrents crossed the path and back again. Mud and garbage mix with millions of needles from the firs nnd pines and leaves from the oak and hardwoods. It’s nice to look at, but deadly to ride on.

I’ve never ridden down here. I’ve started this thing of going downhill before going uphill for two reasons: going uphill straight out of my driveway is a dis-incentive to going riding. I like a little warmup. The other is that living midway through the bike trail means if I don’t go down first, there’s very limited up. So I’ve been going down one cross-street, then over to the trail and up. This time, I went down three cross-streets, then over and now up. And the up is much steeper than where I normally start.

Pump for awhile, realizing that six days was long, very long. Rest for a bit at the benches right where I normally (if three times can be called normally) join the trail. Check to see if I really am in the lowest gear. I am.

Up we go. Past the mobile home park, past the high school. Two high school girls on the trail, sitting on mountain bikes and smoking cigarettes. Neither what you would call interesting, the medium-set of details I pick up (on this and all things): backpacks, goth-style makeup, the bikes, ripped jeans and bedazzled jean jackets – list them as conformist-nonconformists. Pass them at all of 6mph (app just told me that at one of those intervals, interrupting some Metallica). Keep pumping. Occasionally (but not while anyone on the path can see me) check to see if more gears have appeared. They haven’t. Music changes to Kiss. The girls roll past me on their mountain bikes. While my seat is carefully measured to ensure I’m in the optimum position to get maximum power from each leg extension, theirs are both lowered to the very bottom of the post, at a point where at full extension, their knees are still just under their chin. I tell myself they are one third my age and should be able to pass me riding like that. I try to discount the fact that each weighs more than I do. So what? They are still younger than me.

They go up a small side hill along the trail – a move I couldn’t make if my bike were a Yamaha – and smile back as they head to wherever they are going instead of school. I keep spinning or mashing or whatever. The trail has leveled out some so I switch up one gear and pat myself on the back, imaging telling crowds about how I was able to use not just first gear up the trail, but second as well. I must be really getting into good shape.

Just then the girls pass me again. I wish this were some joke I was making. My app says I’m going 6.1mph and they pass me at around 12. I don’t need an app to tell me they are easily doubling my speed. One nearly knocks her head off as her knee punches her jaw with her seat set so low. Whatever. I make it to the road just below the one I planned on making it to and turn right to begin my descent. Watching those girls actually pull away from me as I struggled to keep going (in first gear again) had nothing to do with why I decided to turn down one road early.

Now at 20mph, according to the app. Which has also told me I’m at 5 total miles for the ride. Left on the cross-street and head for the second biggest road in town. Right on that and down – fast. Screen on the phone (no interval to tell me) says I’m at 31mph. Now 35. Those punk girls are way behind me now. 38. Car pulling out. Hope they see me. They go by in a wink. Green light at the next cross street! Never get that in the car. 30mph. A second green. Now to my street and right. Interval says I made seven miles. Left onto my court.

So 520 calories, total elevation difference 440′ and 7.2 miles. I’m happy.

Riding the Ridge

Since my gastric bypass surgery, I’ve been losing weight pretty steadily. Now that a year has gone by, I’ve got some of the stomach (or pouch) size back, so I can eat a bit more than I used to following the surgery. That, of course, means more calories and with my limited lifestyle, intake is beginning to approach outgo. Which means weight loss has stabilized. In other words, I’m not losing any more. That means I’ve got to do one of two things: decrease the intake or increase the calorie burn.

Let’s face it, had I been able to control the calorie part, I wouldn’t have needed gastric bypass. I do control it to some degree – I don’t eat much garbage food and the stuff I do eat is more healthy than the stuff I used to eat. I still have the occasional candy bar and piece of cake, but I don’t drink any milk (down from a gallon – GALLON – a day) and I don’t snack on potato chips and dip. Like, ever. So I have brought down both the quantity and raised the quality of the stuff I do eat. That said, I still eat too much and too much of the wrong thing. Enough so that weight loss is not happening.

The other part is increasing calorie burn. Again, we have a pre-existing condition. With calorie intake, that condition is the almost complete absence of willpower. With burn, the limiting factor is the massive sciatica and back pain that I have. Both have remained constant, despite the weight loss and even the addition of additional drugs aimed at lessening nerve swelling. So most aerobic and all strength building exercises are right out.

Last year, while I was 365, I bought a recumbent trike. The fact that you sit right on the part of the back that is the worst for me, plus the HUGE GUT that rested on my thighs while in the seat made it impossible to ride. I was able to piece together perhaps four total rides of maybe 3 miles each. Each left me in horrible pain for days. I sold the trike.

So this year and against what logic would seem to dictate, I bought a regular bike. A hybrid model which sits you a bit more upright, without placing all the weight on your butt.

My intention was to take it down to Chico and ride the multiple bike trails the town has – and they have many. Like most things with me, if something is challenging or even a bit inconvenient to do, I won’t do it. If my vitamins aren’t out in front on me all day, I won’t take them. And since going to Chico means taking the front wheel off and on, hooking up the bike to the fork rack and then driving up and down the Ridge, well, I ain’t doing it for every ride. Instead, and again, defying all logic, I decided to ride the Ridge.

Since our town is about six miles South to North and two miles East to West, the boundaries and riding areas are limited. The other part is the main reason I planned to ride Chico – the elevation changes. From my house to the bike trail involves a 110′ gain in elevation then a 112′ drop. In 2/3 of a mile. 100′ of elevation change per mile is considered steep for new riders. Once on the trail, and heading up, the elevation change averages 400′ per mile. It’s steep.

Nonetheless, all but two of my rides so far have been on the Ridge. I started at 2.8 miles, then 4.8 miles, then 6 miles and my last ride was 8 miles. That is round trip, of course. The 8 mile trip involved a total elevation change of nearly 900′.

You would think I’d be hating it. After all, I’ve hated even the word exercise my entire life. I’m loving it. I can’t wait for each ride. My ass hurts like someone branded it after 3-4 miles, but it’s toughening up. And now I have a really good seat (saddle) so I should improve. Each ride, I want to increase my distance. With the last ride, I went to the top of the trail. That means I’m going to have to ride down to be able to ride up. I’m hoping to be able to do the 10.8 mile roundtrip from bottom to top by the end of December. I will make it. That should burn around 800 calories.

While my back and sciatica really don’t appreciate the riding, the rest of me does. For once, I plan not to listen to the pain and instead, listen to my iPod.

We in Jefferson have been lucky of late. Well, lucky in terms of weather. For the past two years (my own tragedy notwithstanding), we’ve been blessed with fairly mild weather. To those in the Bay Area or most of coastal SoCal, extremes of weather mean it actually is raining or it’s 100f out. To the residents of the State of Jefferson – and in particular those of the Ridge, however, extremes are the norm. From sub-freezing with the occasional snow winters to above-100 weeks, the Ridge has it all.

Since I spent most of my life in the Bay Area, that is my ‘norm’. Half an inch of rain in a storm makes for accidents, floods and general craziness down there. 100+ not so much – most of the East Bay is bathed in heat and sun all summer long. South, East and North Bay has it a bit easier. Therefore, extremes in the ‘Bay are not really extreme. Not the case up here.

From the Northern part of the Central Valley, up the sides of the foothills on either side: to the East, the foothills of the Coastal Mountain range, to the West, the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. To the North, should you be up in the Redding area, you have the beginnings of the Cascades and Mount Shasta. But in all these areas, you have extremes. 100+ is the norm during the long summer days of June through late September. And unlike the Bay Area, there is no Delta breeze at nights. We’ve had many a midnight still looking at 90f. Too, the wind is a holy terror here. No, not like the 100+ winds whipping through Clayton and Pittsburg. Their claim to fame is speed – but mostly in the unoccupied hills. No, when Jefferson is slapped by the invisible hand of wind (apologies to Adam Smith), it carries the devil’s fire.

July begins the fire season and it runs till the first rains of October. The three months of summer often never see humidity levels rise above 20% (it’s a DRY heat, they say!). Add to that the 100f temps and you certainly have a recipe for fire.

However, I started talking about our recent blessings. We’ve had mild weather for two years. Uncommonly cool, 90’s and such, summers and rainy, but not rain forest range winters. Just to give you a measuring stick: while half an inch paralyzes our comrades in the BA, our first (JUNE!) weekend here came complete with 2″ in 14 hours. That’s cool, cause that December, we had our first ‘big’ rain: 11″ in 24 hours. Our creek rose 5 feet and our garage flooded. This is a creek that typically runs at from 8″ to around 24″. So it went to 96″. And my garage.

The wonderful weather we’ve had seems to be at an end. While the first six months of the year have been quiet, the last six look to be scary. Ah well, all good things must come to an end. Tho I’m not sure why.