Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Blast from the past

This picture was in the news a couple of days ago. It drew me in. The scene looked familiar but I couldn't place it.

It goes with this news story about the crash in Florida on I-75.

I needed to look because this crash was similar (but worse) to the accident where I was injured. An interstate highway with no visibility. Vehicles just plowing into each other. The sense of control we feel when driving a car turns on a dime into helplessness, the kind that threatens our survival.

The accident scene was surreal, a dream where I am the spectator. I watch everything unfold as if it were a story. If things go wrong I can always wake myself up! Instead I'm stuck out there in a field, somewhere south of Bakersfield and north of the Grapevine. I think, this is how people die every day. Lives end just like this, in wreckage and fog. In a place without a name, among strangers.

On the one hand, you wonder why drivers keep driving when they can't see anything. Instinct tells us to stop. On the other hand, what realistic options are there? You're on a highway, so there is the need to keep moving forward. The trick is to hedge bets, move forward but move slowly enough so nothing really bad happens. It's not a good situation, and you would think we would have come up with a constructive response by now.

Why did the state highway people reopen the road? And in our case, why didn't they close the road in the first place? Highway people don't like to close roads. But, the road closes anyway when the accidents happen.

I feel for these people. And it brings back the memory of that day.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sweet Old Familiar

The road to Pescadero is the old, familiar route. For most cyclists on the Peninsula, it's the go-to route for a long weekend ride. It has that escape feeling: forests, ocean views, the town of Pescadero. You really feel like you've been somewhere far, far away. And, it has very few junk miles.

I do remember my first time on this route, probably in 1997. My first bike was a heavy old thing. Larry joked it was made of plumbing pipe! I was amazed at how many hills were involved. At that time my legs could handle just about one hill, consisting of one up and one down. Well, I felt betrayed. They could not climb hill after hill and everything seemed to be a hill. By the end of the ride I was completely knackered.

Today is not as different from that first experience as I would like. There were those 9 days off the bike due to a back injury. Then, I'm just moving slow for some unknown reason. Who knows why? Then, once again there is the 11:30am departure from my house.

Danny predicts I will make it home before dark. That prediction turns out to be false. Also, I feel like a slug all the way to the top of Old La Honda and Skyline. My back is kind of grumbling, after riding 3 days in a row. But it's worth it because:
  • Mentally and physically I need a long ride to blow the gunk out
  • I need to get out of the house
  • Pescadero has lunch options
  • My post-injury training plan needs to be kicked up a notch
All of these are in process! The weather is not quite as warm as yesterday, with a haze of high clouds keeping things cooler.

Old La Honda keeps going and going.

West Old La Honda does not disappoint, but leaves me one tube lighter.

Haskins Hill is a sweet climb through the redwoods, followed by a screaming descent. I'm on the Seven, which is rock-solid-no-worries-mate on descents. The route along Pescadero Creek strikes that quiet chord of natural beauty. We don't have this kind of silence in Silicon Valley.

And in Pescadero they are leaving the light on at the tacqueria, where the Chile Relleno Especiale brings it all home.

Now that the fuel tank is full, the late hour is a bit worrying. This is still January after all. No idea what time the sun sets.

But what can be done? I'm making up the route as I go along. West Alpine, though steep and long, would be a shortcut. Mental math: 3 miles on 84 from La Honda + 2.7 miles on West Old La Honda + 7 miles on Skyline to Page Mill. Versus 1 mile on Pescadero Creek Road + 9 miles (I think) on West Alpine, 7 of which are climbing.

The main advantage to West Alpine is that every pedal stroke will be directed toward home. It's the direct route. I know I'm gonna take it; it's just a matter of courage. There is no way the light is going to last, no matter the route.

This mental conversation is taking place along Stage Road before San Gregorio, and along 84 between San Gregorio and La Honda.

On 84 motoring east there is a plowed field to my right and the brown, irregular dirt spreads toward the low coastal hills. Under a soft January sky it is so beautiful it's hard to keep moving. But I do.

Further on there is a field with sheep grazing and if I keep looking, small baby sheep. They're tan and black, new and sleek. Impossibly small. "Oh, look at the sheep-lets!!" I can't help calling out aloud. I am not alone! The shepherd stretched out in the field pulls himself on his elbow and turns around to figure out what's going on. I keep going, a bit embarassed.

At the bottom of Alpine it is chilly, as expected. 1.8 miles of gentle uphill before it really starts to climb. At that point, a certain technique is serving me well. Sitting or standing, just hold the lower back completely still. Like it's against a wall or a board. Make the legs do all the work. This is a different way of riding, but it seems to work. My back is cranky, but no more cranky than this morning.

A bobcat lopes down a driveway and up the road, to the left. At the edge of the road it stops and looks back at me for an instant, then is gone.

For this stretch the goal is to make it to the upper half of Alpine as quickly as possible. The upper half is exposed and will therefore have more daylight later. As I reach the stop sign and start the second half of the climb, the light is soft. The sun might be ~20 minutes from going down, filtering strongly through the low clouds.

I'm rarely here this late. The light is a real treat. It takes my mind off the details of the hill and the climb goes pretty fast.

At a ranch several miles from the top I find this seasonal tribute:

I come to that certain point, an L-turn to the left that is the beginning of the end. After the summit the road coasts down for a mile or so, and this is one of the best views ever. To the right, Ben Lomond Mountain, the smoky and huge imposing ridge to the southwest, bathed in pink and light blue. Behind me there is a pure ivory color as the last light hits the coast. Two young deer cross the road, mounting a steep embankment.

I'm glad to be alone. Wouldn't know what to say to someone else.

Time is short now. At the intersection with Page Mill hurry up, get on jacket and hat and blinkie light. I should have known it would get dark all at once this time of year. But you make those decisions early in the ride, when you're thinking other thoughts. Now all I can do is let it all play out.

Page Mill has a little more climbing, then the descent comes. I go as fast as possible, knowing the Seven will absorb any bumps. In the shaded parts the road surface is not very visible. This is my home turf, though, so less scary. Down we go. There are the lights of San Jose. The whole valley is already dim, well into dusk.

Coming down steep, steep Moody with its unpredictable banked turns, I'm grateful for the small amount of daylight that is left. It is really helping. Then, in the canyon although Danny's little handlebar light is doing its best I truly miss my dynamo and Edelux lamp. They would not leave me virtually blind like this! And unseen too...a car pulls out right in front of me in the El Monte intersection. Yelling after the fact only accomplishes so much. Far better to have a light that makes the drivers flinch.

I reach home at the ripe hour of 6:17 pm. Time for a cup of tea and a bath and a burger. 72 miles, 6400 feet of climbing. For the weekend (counting Friday), 164 miles and ~12,000 feet of climbing.

So the back, while cranky, still functions OK. Overall I feel blissful and lazy. Mission accomplished.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Paying it forward

A cluster of cyclists by the side of the road. The road is West Old La Honda, possibly the most drop-dead gorgeous cycling road in the universe.

You always look closely and slow down in these cases. Either it's an accident and someone needs help or it's a mechanical issue and someone needs help. Or it's a mechanical issue and it's in the process of being fixed. No matter which scenario it turns out to be, the best course is to slow down. One, you avoid running into them and becoming an accident that needs to be fixed. Two, you enable communication in case help is needed. Cycling etiquette requires a quick check-in.

It's a group of young racer guys, probably late 20's. 5 of them. One holding a wheel and looking unhappily toward me. He says "um, do you have a patch?" I don't, but I do have a spare tube. He's had 4 flats today and asks if they can buy it from me. I say the tube is not helping me anyway because I happen to have forgotten my pump! No pump, and now no tube. If I have a flat on this ride, one tire iron will be the sum total of my tools to resolve it.

4 flats in one day means your tires are worn out, or your rim strips are worn out and are biting holes in the tubes. Bike tubes are expensive so they're probably already in the hole and don't want to hear this from me. Multiple flats turns what starts out as a beautiful ride with friends into an exercise in frustration. I'm resisting the urge to consult. So far so good.

Younger riders often have just one or two sets of cycling clothing, helmet & shoes, a fast bike, and that's it. A little disposable income is needed to replenish the supplies for fixing flats and other mechanicals. My rule is if the rider is under 30, the spare tube is free.

Of course cycling buddies can have whatever for free. There's a tacit agreement that we'll bail each other out.

I hand over the tube. The guy is relieved. Replacing a tube is a lot easier than patching. One of his friends wishes me a good ride. With an ironic laugh I say "I hope so!" and continue on.

If you want the truth, it's hard to give up my only tube. I'm riding alone, with a lot of miles left in the day. If I had a flat, I could always replace the tube and bum a pump off a passing rider. Both a tube and a pump would be a bit much to ask for. I'd probably get a raised eyebrow for being completely unprepared.

As a sport, cycling stresses self-reliance. You can get out there in a remote area and not be able to continue. It's expected that you prepare for what might reasonably happen (no one is prepared for 4 flats - most riders can deal with 2). But cyclists are also a human community, and to address our shared vulnerability there is a social code. Never pass someone in need without offering to help. Take payment only if you need the money.

It's an ecosystem. Good things will come back.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Food review #1

From time to time, as circumstances warrant, we'll do a food review here on Route 66, a journey. I understand there is food available on Route 66, so hopefully this theme can be repeated occasionally through the trip. It's important to practice eating.

Today we review the Trader Joe's Raspberry Tarte. We were in the frozen aisle when the words "Product of France" grabbed our attention like a flashing neon sign.

Then, we read the following text right next to the Nutrition Facts table and ingredients list (both ignored):

Start with a simple and deliciously flaky butter-y crust. Line it with a thin layer of vanilla cream and pile with whole raspberries. Freeze it and ship it from the South of France.

OK! We took the box home, wondering how good a frozen dessert product from halfway around the world could actually be.

As it turns out, really really good. The raspberries taste real. Not like the Trader Joe's fresh raspberries from Chile, but like patisserie-real. The crust tastes real, too - like butter. It's a cookie crust, the pate brisee, just the right thickness. French pastries seem to have a sense of balance and proportion. Not too sweet, which is the real test. I recommend defrosting, then warming for the absolute minimum interval in the microwave to fully appreciate the delicate flavors of fruit and crust.

No whipped cream necessary. This item would be great served in a hilltop town at a local cafe with a terrace, on a summer day.

Two steep canyons

Today I got on the road ~11:30. I'd like to say this is not typical, but it is in my post-TBI world.

I was never a morning person but bicycle rides need to start in the morning, and I could deal with that. Larry, Danny's brother, would call the night before and say 'meet me at the corner of Alpine and Portola at 9:30'. I'd be out of the house at 8:30 or 8:35, that was that.

Events usually start at first light. The earliest event start for me was 5am. These are usually double centuries. You're never really glad to see that time on the entry form, but you show up.

Post-TBI, the pattern is different. It is a major mental negotiation to get on the bike at all. This is one of my major frustrations.

It also curtails my training. What kind of ride can be done starting at noon? Not the long, juicy ones. But to say this is not the norm would be untrue. It is the post-TBI norm. If the day comes when I do not have to struggle to get on the bike, I will throw a BIG party. Yes, you will be invited! And there will be hors d'oeuvres...

One thing that I've found helps is consolidating trips. This is a fancy way of saying 'find an excuse to get out of the house'. Today it was my dad's birthday card that had to be put in the mail. There's a less odious post office on Miramonte, on a bike route toward the hills. I got dressed, pumped my tires, pocketed the card and took off.

From the post office I headed through some very expensive real estate toward the hills. The route was not planned out, and there was not enough time to comfortably reach Pescadero. So, the closest way was El Monte/Moody to Page Mill.

Back issues notwithstanding, the reasoning was that if it was going to be a shorter ride, all the miles should be quality miles. Moody being the steepest route to Page Mill, which is pretty much the steepest and longest way to Skyline. I don't know. Maybe I'm punishing myself for getting a late start.

The lack of a gym membership is becoming an issue too. I feel like I'm riding slow and am bored with the roads around here. Perhaps a tour is in my future. Perhaps the Sierra Foothills tour I missed out on 2 weeks ago.

My back is OK on Moody because I'm in the triple. Still, it takes some pushing. Then Page Mill is not so bad. Until it is, because I expire from lack of food. The technical term is bonking. Well, this is another aspect of not getting out of the house in a timely manner. Breakfast wears off. I don't care and I ride anyway and refuse to open the bar in my back pocket because it doesn't sound good.

Did I mention I forgot the camera, again?

It's hard to pinpoint the exact moment of expiration, but it's about two-thirds of the way through what I call the balcony section of Page Mill. There's a lovely steep section with lovely views of the entire Santa Clara Valley (no air quality issues today). The weather could not be friendlier - it's mid-60's here in the last week of January. But I am climbing VERY slowly.

I talk myself through it using the road signs and paddle markers. The paddle markers say 3.5, then 2.7, then 2.3 miles. The signs have larger numbers. That's because Page Mill technically ends where dirt Alpine comes in (I say to myself). The smaller mileage number is the distance to the summit.

Finally I'm there and turn left on Skyline. It takes an incredibly long time to traverse this rolling 7 miles to Saratoga Gap. I tell myself about peanut butter and apricot jelly, no, orange marmalade, no, apricot jelly on toasted wheat.

At Saratoga Gap two cars are in some kind of detente at the crossroads. Often the casual tourists don't know where they are and need additional time. I look longingly at the hot dog vendor set up in the parking lot. Who knows what's in those hot dogs, I tell myself as I open the Kind bar that's been in my pocket this whole time. Hot dog, says my brain. Hot dog.

It's a 3-mile descent on Highway 9, to the turn onto Redwood Gulch. For some reason I'm just not feeling confident here, borderline scared. Maybe it's the new bike. Maybe the seat needs raising just a tad. It's very windy and I am trying to get a feeling for how the bike handles, how my body needs to move to make it do the right thing. Cars and a couple of other bikes pass me. It's not that pleasant learning in real time.

At Redwood Gulch there's another cyclist and a car bearing down so I just slow way down and teeter in the miniscule shoulder. This has never been my favorite descent, but today is down there on the experience scale.

Redwood Gulch is quiet but the grade requires constant attention. I think there are places where it's 23%. The brakes help you slow down but there's no stopping. Another cyclist is headed uphill, with gritted teeth. I yell some encouragement that he probably doesn't hear. Probably do need to raise that seat. The bike feels a little squirrely on the back half, with my weight a half-inch too low.

Like the lower part of Moody, Stevens Canyon is cold, really cold. It came pretty close to freezing here last night. I do a visual check for ice on the road. It's really unlikely to still be here, in the middle of the day. But it's cold enough to require all extra clothing: heavy wool arm and leg warmers, windbreaker. The red leaves piled on the shoulder look dark red, burnt by frost. The sound of Stevens Creek rushing is a good sound, after all these weeks of no rain.

On Foothill, I talk myself in. We're not breaking any speed records today. But I'll be darned if I stop at Starbucks 5 miles from home. It is really windy, from the north-east, straight in the face. Or is the real problem my empty stomach? Feels like I'll never make it home.

But I do, to a shower and Bella and a chicken shawerma wrap. And Danny, who listens as I tell him about the silver lining of bonking. It can make a 3-and-a-half hour ride feel like a whole day!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Basic and Not-so-Basic

The roofers have been here for 2 days and the banging is extreme. I have to get out of the house.

It is worse for Bella. She goes up into the chimney and stays there all day. Don't know how that is even possible!

Today I'm not motivated at all to exercise. I miss the gym, which is easier than coming up with a ride that appeals. The roofers can be my excuse and they won't even have to know about it. They'll just see me heading out of the driveway with an orange bike.

Today's ride is the basic escape route - Woodside Loop, starting with Altamont. Altamont follows a little ridge and the hills are a dark grey-green. Their tops are in misty white clouds. Somewhere in there is the top of Page Mill, and the top of Montebello. A hawk coasts over an open hilltop.

Should have brought the camera!

Legs not feeling very strong. It's 1pm and no lunch yet, only snacks. Cherry Pie Larabar to the rescue. Those calories get me to Woodside and I talk myself into 6-mile out-and-back to Hwy 92 before lunch. The light is so amazing and soft along the Crystal Springs Reservoir, it's mythical. Every feature of the landscape has depth and dimension. Where I grew up we had clouds, and the light was similar. The clouds mediate the light.

Of course, every feature of this landscape is courtesy of the San Andreas Fault. This road, Canada, follows the fault running under the Crystal Springs lakes. Looking south toward Saratoga Gap it is actually visible. Roads often follow the bench structures of faults. It's a hidden benefit of cycling, time to contemplate the patterns around us. My friend Jim Bradbury says cycling has 3 complementary hobbies: geology (and geography), ornithology, and of course meterology.

At this point it's 3:15 and at the crossroads more tangible concerns are at hand. Roberts Store. The place is chock full of middle schoolers just out for the day. The deli has some Artichoke Bisque, focaccia, coffee, and a gingersnap cookie. For lack of exactly the right word, yum! If we lived around the corner from Roberts, we could just eat here and not cook. Is gastronomy a hobby?

Somewhere on Junipero Serra west of Stanford the sun starts to go down and the light changes quietly to grey. Still beautiful.

There are worse things than living in a place where, when driven from your normal habitat, this is your reward.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A bittersweet day

Today, Gabrielle Giffords resigned from the House.

Despite an amazing year of recovery, it was time for her to choose. Apparently her cognitive processing and memory are intact, but it's hard to communicate what she's thinking. Her right side is not that functional. So she had a choice: return to work or continue her cognitive and physical rehab.

My injury was far less severe, less dramatic. Somehow it was the same choice though. I could step up to increased demands at work but I'd have to abandon rehab. High achiever or not, there is a limit to the number and length of bike rides that can be worked into my demanding Silicon Valley job. How could it not affect my productivity, heading off in the middle of the day for whiplash care?

After more than 2 years of hanging on tight to my job and letting my health go, in August 2011 it became clear. Continuing like that meant permanent cognitive and physical impairment.

I couldn't. I had to let it go. And so did Gabby Giffords.

If she's like me, she'll miss her colleagues and the sense of meaningful work. She'll miss the structure in her day, and the regular income. She'll miss the tangible contributions she used to make as a legislator.

But what seems like a step back today can ultimately turn into a big step forward.

"Asked about her daughter's future, Gloria Giffords said, I kind of think she's transcended Congress. I don't know where she's going to end up."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Insert Morale Boost Here

Structure is essential in my post-TBI life. Without structure, sit on the couch surfing the Internet and eating bon bons. With structure, perform impressive athletic feats and wrest uncommon bargains from the wasteland of strip malls in Silicon Valley.

Yet, structure is mostly lacking since I stopped going to work every day. Tasks and mini-projects expand infinitely. There is no allotted time, so they feel free to expand beyond the known universe.

Futile trips to the library to check out something someone else has already grabbed. Pay a fine - again. :(

Return that X bought on the Internet. The post office, I've found, is the very nexus of the expanding, unstructured universe. Any task involving the post office multiplies into 3 tasks, 2 with infinite queues. Feedback unwelcome. Avoid at all costs.

At the very edge of the universe lies - housework. I load and unload the dishwasher. I empty compost. I banish old leftovers from the fridge. I shop for dinner. Mercifully, I get out of the house every 2 weeks so our house cleaner can actually clean it. More on that in another post.

So the game is, turn every little routine of daily life possible into...structure. Out of routine will come goodness and more goodness.

Every 5 weeks I need a haircut anyway. It's hard to justify the $100+ version around the corner. I mean, the cut is always fabulous, but we are ramping back on fabulous in search of Good Enough. There are hair places all over. Such as in Woodside, 20 excellent biking miles away.

First, clothing. Highs are supposed to be in the mid-50's and for us this qualifies as winter. This calls for one of everything, including:

Danny raises his eyebrow but opens the garage door for me before leaving for work. With difficulty, my leg swings over the top tube and we're headed for Woodside. My hair is a mess. Bring on Carly!

The back is not 100%, but I have rationales. I am bored. Also moderate rides help more than Advil. At this point "moderate" means "no hills". Usually the haircut ride gets an added hill like Altamont, but today we will subtract hills. Today, for maybe the first time ever, it's the flat route.

Foothill to Alpine Road. LOTS OF STOPLIGHTS. Page Mill, green light! At the intersection there is a cyclist with his foot down, pointed west. A familiar-looking cyclist.

"Bill!", I call out wildly, thrilled to actually know someone. While the light is red, he totters over and gives me a hug. The last time I saw Bill he was crossing 4 lanes of Highway 95 in Idaho with a floor pump in his hand. Bill is a great rider, a regular at SuperTour and Kim's Big Sur ride. Further, he is a real connoisseur of bicycles. Bill has a garage full of bikes. Bill is the kind of guy who looks at the bike first to figure out who the rider is. Today I am on a new machine, so it takes a little explaining. Turns out that like me he is on the fence about Death Valley. His light is green and he takes off in search of the Noon Ride (and the racer boys).

As for me, I toodle north on Junipero Serra, spinning but not pushing, toward Alpine Road. Progress sure feels slow. My back is twinging but as long as I don't push it is still talking to me.

Alpine is a long slow slog and my back is not that happy. Even low gears can't fool it. What have I done? After the long downhill on Portola, all is immediately forgiven. A big relief. At least there is plenty of time and I won't be late. Toodle on.

Is that a historical marker? I've turned here hundreds of times and never seen it.

It says this used to be the "lumberman's" town of Searsville. Where did the trees and lumber come from? That story is for another ride.

Followed by the classic favorite, Mountain Home Road. Love the canopy of trees.

At 12:52 it's Woodside proper. Carly cuts my hair (and grills me on why I'm riding injured). Afterwards, I totter across the parking lot to Woodside Cafe and Bakery where Mady is waiting, sunning herself on the bench. It's actually warm!

What a great civilized lunch stop. Everything I've tried here is tasty, and the espresso is the real thing. Syrupy and strong, with great crema. The servers kindly fetch us stuff. Mady's company is most welcome.

I shouldn't have worried about the hump on Sand Hill on the way home - no problem. After making a conscious effort not to race on Foothill, by 4 I'm home safe and sound. Breakfast dishes are still in the sink, and a ~25 mile ride is in the bag. Beats the heck out of not being able to move at all.

A day like this? Just what the doctor ordered.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Services for Brain Injury (SBI), 60 Daggett Drive, San Jose CA

Today, after 3 days of rest, hot and cold packs, Advil and 2 massages, I can walk and drive. This means I can keep my appointment to meet Christine Camara and the folks at SBI. And that's good news!!!

It was a great meeting. First, Christine gave me a tour of the facility in San Jose. It's off North First Street, just a hop and skip from where I used to work. Seeing the physical setting and meeting the staff brings everything into focus.

During the tour I learned about the various services SBI provides under one roof, to minimize gaps for clients. For example, if someone needs strategies for managing finances, cognitive rehabilitation, retraining for work, as well as support in staying focusing on the present, they get all that here. As one staff member put it, "SBI picks up where the medical system leaves off".

This kind of integrated, coordinated approach is absolutely critical for folks with brain injuries, I think. We can't really coordinate our own care and navigate various parts of the medical system. After the accident, I was overwhelmed with things to deal with and didn't realize help of this kind was available. Getting the word out to the medical community is part of the mission here as well.

It turns out what SBI provides is pretty unique, certainly in Northern California. Ideally, no matter where you lived you would have access to this type of support and structure. But apparently not, at least not today. And I've learned that brain injuries are fairly common. According to the CDC, each year 1.7 million Americans will cope with a traumatic brain injury. (Almost half of those will be related to a motor vehicle accident.) Yet only 1 in 20 will receive comprehensive rehabilitative services from a provider like SBI. There must be a lot of people, even here in Silicon Valley, suffering in silence and isolation.

I can definitely see some themes in common between the SBI clients and my own experience. Follow this blog to hear more about them... :)

Then we all sat down and I heard about the vision for the auction in April. Each year SBI picks a destination as a theme; last year it was Paris (quelle coincidence!! L'annee derniere j'etais a Paris...). The grand prize for the auction is a trip to the destination! That is a great prize, if you ask me. So, some lucky sort April 21 will win an all expenses paid trip along Route 66, the Mother Road. The experience of a lifetime.

I left with action items, motivation, and a feeling of gratitude, for maybe being able to help.

A slight detour

I hoped to have tales of the Sierra foothills to tell. Adventures with new friends and new roads.

Thursday I set off on the bike, with panniers, for a little local shake-down cruise. South on Foothill into Stevens Canyon, up Mt. Eden, up Pierce. Down Highway 9 into Saratoga for a coffee, then home. Easy.

My lower back was feeling a little funny. You know, kind of weak and tingly. And my right side was tighter than my left. At Blue Rock Coffee on Big Basin Way, I promised myself to stretch after the ride. A little downward-facing dog might be the cure for being too goal-oriented these past few days. Lots of running around for the trip, but finally everything was in place: hotels, train tickets, map, comrades.

Got home, showered, stretched. Over the next 4 hours my back tightened up gradually, until it was in full acute rebellion, By 9pm, I couldn't move at all without tweaking some hitherto anonymous nerve running through the sacrum. Anonymous no more; we were now quite well-acquainted. Sitting was out of the question, as was bending, reaching, and, well, walking. Standing for a few minutes was OK. Violating these rules aggravated a large muscle in my right middle back, which seemed to be in perpetual spasm. The pain was intense.

Danny made me take Advil. This probably granted me sleep on Thursday night - very key. Friday he made me cancel the bike trip, another excellent call. This type of trip requires a lot of independence on the part of the rider. You can't just be a quivering mess by the side of the road, or in the shower in a strange hotel. No help available.

My most sincere hope is that it's not a bulging or slipped disk in the spine. If it is, though, it's not a great time to be pushing the bike up hills. That's the road to permanent injury.

We stayed put all weekend, except for a couple of visits to Roman Paradigm for an excellent massage. Tuesday Dr. Friedman will be back and we'll try to figure out what happened. My bet is, it's the same whiplash injury from the accident 3 years ago. It might be migrating down my back on its way to resolving itself. I'm sad to miss out on the Sierra foothills tour. The bike is in the garage, all dressed up and no place to go! We'll find it a place to go, as soon as I'm better.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Credit Card Tour of the Sierra Foothills....in January!

Folks, it's been a very mild January here in California. No rain or atmospheric moisture to speak of since December 30, 2011. Last year was a huge rain and snow year, so no drought.

But, weird.

Right after New Year's, it started to warm up. It's been in the 60s every day, beautiful early fall weather. In January.

The only snow in the Sierra is the snow they've been making. Cosmetic surgery for snow...

The local riding has been great. Traversing the ridge with no worries about cold on the other side. La Honda...no problem! No frozen fingers and toes on the descent.

So when this tour came up last week, a chance to tour the Sierra foothills in January with other riders - oh yes, I took it. The forecast looks good! So far:
* the hostel reservation in San Francisco
*the train ticket from San Francisco to Merced, then back from Turlock-Denair to Jack London Square (all San Joaquin) and thence to Santa Clara (Capitol Corridor)
All hail the AAA discount!
* the reservation at the hostel at Midpines
* the reservation at the Jeffery Hotel in Coulterville
* countless coordination messages with the NorCal Bicycle Touring and Camping Meetup group

The plan is to spend the night in SF, ride the Amtrak bus/train to Merced, then bike to Merced the first night. Then Coulterville. Then back to Turlock-Denair for the train home on Monday. Never been to these places - should be great!

Last night, Danny installed the Tubus Fly rack on the Waterford. The rack is an old friend; the bike is a new one. Very key, the shakedown cruise today: Stevens Canyon to Mt. Eden to Pierce. My back, for some reason, is really cranky. I mean medically cranky. I'm ignoring it, hoping it will behave for the concert tomorrow night and the tour the following morning. But all is well with the bike and its gear.

After all, the hostel in Midpines has a hot tub!

Meaningful work

OK, so we're on for next Tuesday Jan 17! Time to tour SBI and see first-hand what they're doing. I have lots of questions. What are the common themes and issues for their clients? Brain injury has some definite patterns. Most of them run under people's radar, which makes me grateful on some days and outraged on others. Christine Camara is the Executive Director. We're scheduled to meet at 10am; hope I pass muster.

A few weeks ago, I went to their website:

Right away, I dig the domain name. Over the past 3 years, caring has gravitated to a front and center position for me. Some people REALLY care; others, not as much. For me, caring rates higher than remembering stuff, higher than multitasking, higher than pretending nothing happened. When someone cares, I can master all other challenges.

The SBI fundraiser this year has a Route 66 theme. It actually started the idea for my tour. It's the genesis. Did you ever have things come together in a weird and unpredictable way? If this trip and my stories can help SBI, that would make me really happy. I've been looking for meaningful work. Maybe this?

I'm so excited!

Gazing, and logistics

Yesterday I made the reservation for the Grand Canyon Railway. Over the phone, because of the one-way ticket. The web site sells round-trip tickets, that's all. Biking from Williams and riding the train back is not the norm.

The woman on the other end says "Southbound or northbound?" in a drawl I can't quite place. South Rim to Williams, I tell her, guessing northbound. She corrects me, says "that's southbound", and I'm laughing at myself. The kind of thing I would never get wrong here at home. But the idea is to go somewhere else. Somewhere unfamiliar.

I wonder which way the wind blows.

Once, on the way back from Dallas, we flew over it and I was one of the lucky ones on the side of the plane with the view. It is long, unbelievably long. I just stared, which is what a lot of people do. After all, there isn't much else at the South Rim - just a view. A gaping, epic view.

The National Parks Service says: "A powerful and inspiring landscape, the Grand Canyon overwhelms our senses through its immense size; 277 river miles (446km) long, up to 18 miles (29km) wide, and a mile (1.6km) deep."

From the plane I could see length but not depth. Just the cut in the earth, and a long shadow that runs the length of it.

I ask if there's food there, thinking of the ride from Williams and of my stomach. She says there's food at Maswik Lodge. This appears to be a cafeteria in a basic hotel. Good enough.

I remember to say that I'll have a bike, so there needs to be room for it on that particular train (or no go). No problem - apparently they put bikes UNDER the train cars. Gotta see that...

Don't know what else to ask. That's the thing about new stuff - you have to plunge in.