Thursday, December 28, 2006

More baghdad pictures

This is what a mortar does to a car. This was a direct hit on the hood of the center car. Most of the burn damage was the result of the secondary gasoline burn-off. No one was injured in this attack, even though it hit within yards of the mess hall.

This is the same man-made lagoon that surrounds the Al Faw Palace (pictured earlier). The homes around the lagoon were formerly occupied by Baath Party officials.

The ironically named "Victory over Kuwait" Palace. Unfinished. Heh.

Tour de France, Baghdad style. These funky looking bikes were everywhere at the BIAP complex.

Another picture from the same attack.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Swords over Baghdad

Work sent me to Baghdad in December. Here are some pictures:

This is me and Rick Kaiser. Rick and I met because I know his son-in-law, Mike Higdon, from SAIC. Mike had Rick call me when he was considering taking a position in Iraq, but I never thought I would end up meeting him there. Great guy.

This is how sane people get from the Baghdad Airport to the Green Zone. And yes, the camo gear was mandatory. And, yes, I know I look like a dork. Thanks for noticing.

This is the Blackhawk I took on the flight into the Green Zone. This picture was taken departing the aircraft.

There is a Subway inside the Green Zone.

This is the Baghdad Airport (the civilian side) on the way out of the country. Strangely, getting out of the country was the most stressful part of the whole journey. et's just say there are "different cultural norms"for queueing up in lines.

Flying over the Airport complex on the way to the Green Zone. The Airport complex was full of these man-made lakes that could have been beautiful. And, actually, I was surprised at how beautiful Iraq was, considering everything we hear. There were fairly mature eucalyptus trees everywhere at the airport complex and the terrain from the air (on the flight in) was absolutely beautiful: rivers and lakes and marshes dotted the ground.

This is inside the Green Zone, on the reviewing strip where Saddam used to stand in his fedora, act like an ass, and review his army while shooting a shotgun off into the air.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Virginia Style

Here's how we do it in Virginia. This is the ridge road at the top of "Reddish Knob" a delicious little stretch of the George Washington National Forest just outside Harrisonburg, VA. You're looking at the ridgeline at the top of the climb. It's a nice treat to ride from the false summit up to the parking lot because the road is full of tight switchbacks, steep drop-offs and excellent views. You can see Virginia (off your left shoulder) and West Virginia (off your right shoulder) from most sections of the last two miles.

This is the top of the climb, in the foreground is the last mile, which is a ridgeline ride to the summit parking lot. Riding the ridgeline is a nice treat: It's super narrow, overgrown with trees and feels very old world. Cool riding. At 4,397 feet, this is the highest paved road in Northern VA, and the third-highest paved road in the Commonwealth, behind Elk Garden, VA (4,400 feet) and Grayson Highlands State Park (4,880 feet) both in the far Southeastern reaches of VA.

The third ridgeline in the below picture (the one that intersects my right ear) is the road we climbed up. While it's only an average 4.5% gradient, the climb runs almost 14 miles and it gets to be a chore near the top. It's an excellent road, because it's so isolated and lightly traveled. Any way you slice it, you're climbing for over an hour, solid.

This is the view down to West Virginia.

More of the terrain of the climb up to the ridgeline. The climb is the only terrain and topography I've found on the East Coast that even remotely reminds me of Oregon.

Flick. Maybe I'll be able to con him into joining us in Eugene in '07. I'm surprised he's smiling, after listening to me jabber in his ear for two hours...knowing he's got at least two hours on the ride home...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More pictures

Randall and me on the ride to the base of Shotgun Creek...

This is the pre-climb up to the "real" climb on Shotgun. I think we saw one car in this road.

Entrance to the gruesome hill.

This is the first day. I forgot that in Oregon a 30% chance of rain does not mean there's a 30% chance it will rain that day. It means, it WILL rain 30% of the day.

This is the descent off the second Wolf Creek climb - it is also the furthest point West on the Wolf Creek ride. You could follow this road all the way to the coast without seeing another car the entire way.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Best. Roads. On. Earth.

This is on the midway point coming down off the Shotgun Creek summit. The descent off Shotgun is actually two descents, with a long flat section in the middle. The upper portion of the descent is the hairiest. Randall absolutely bombed the upper section, and was waiting for John and me where this picture was taken. John stopped mid-descent to pick up a bottle Randall's frenzied pace had jettisoned...and I waited for John right where the upper section ended. When John came into view he was *way* off the back of his saddle, descending like he was on a mountain bike, with his ass dangling just above the back tire, and this wide-eyed look of sheer amazement in his eyes. He later told me that as we first started descending, he looked down this one particularly steep hairpin, and mumbled out loud, "You have GOT TO BE F-ing kidding me!"

At the end of the ride, John - who was the only one of us who had never ridden Shotgun before - proudly proclaimed that the entire Shotgun experience was, "Probably the stupidest thing I've ever done on a road bike!" Stupid in a good way. But still stupid.

Yep, Shotgun is an adventure.

This is the entire gang of Pingellian Sufferfest 2006 at the top of the second Wolf Creek climb. It was awfully cold for a May 29th. Left-to-right it's Randall, John Simon, Dave "Hairy" Campbell and me.

The top of Shotgun. Dressed for the descent.

You've heard of Big Head Todd and the Monsters. This is Pumpkin Head Pingel and the Ballerina. Shotgun Creek descent. Fixing our fifth flat of the day.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Knuckle Mangler

The instructions said it would take between 8 and 12 hours to build. It took me 8 hours on Saturday, a full 11 hours on Sunday, 2 hours Monday night (in the dark), 2 hours on Tuesday night, and I still have about 3 more hours to finish the roof.

My knuckles look like raw hamburger because the hard plastic tube slide has to be bolted together with hundreds of little bolt/washer/nut connections. Except, no one rounded off the sharp edges of the plastic mold. So, after 2 hours of wrestling with sharp plastic that didn't want to do what I wanted it to, my hands look like someone took a wire brush and vigorously ran it across them for a few hours. Sheesh.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The way it was meant to look

The grey shark, as it's supposed to look.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Oregon is Magic

Over the years, I've lived in a bunch of places, mainly on the West Coast: San Diego, Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Santa Clara, San Francisco, and Eugene, OR. Of all those places, I'd have to say only one - Oregon - qualifies as absolutely magic. There's just something different, nicer, more connected about the place. Here's a small example.

After riding for 4 days in Eugene, Randall, Simon and I packed up and scrambled back to Portland on Tuesday night, hoping to catch a race at Portland International Raceway (PIR), where I thought there was a decent chance I would run into some old friends.

Driving over the river, and turning off into the PIR paddock, a flood of memories came rushing back. I used to race here a LOT. Whew. Anyways, I remembered to bring an old team Ciclo-Saturn skinsuit (not so secretly hoping it would attract attention) and I got ready to race.
On the warm up laps, a bunch of people recognized the jersey and rolled up to check in, but no one I recognized. And, as the race started, I still hadn't recognized anyone. Then, halfway through the race I hear, "Hey, LUKE, howya doin' man? I haven't seen THAT jersey in a while!" Kelly Weiber! Wow, it worked. We talked families, changing priorities, adulthood and all that. In the middle of the 1-2 Tuesday-night PIR. How excellent can it get.

Then, after the race, I was recognized by more old-time Ciclo guys and that was that. Or so I thought. Earlier tonight the UPS guy delivered my final package from Oregon: A pair of wheels I had the fine folks at River City Bicycles pack and ship for me. In the box I was TOTALLY surprised by a photo of me and Campbell from the Mayor's Cup in 1992 or '93 (memory's a bit hazy)....a race Campbell should have won, but that he graciously took himself out of contention for, by crashing on the first corner of the last lap (when he had an insurmountable lead)...thereby allowing me to win. Stuck to the picture (which I had never seen before) was a note, "Remember this from wasy back..." with a business card from Michael Adamson. Mike had been Oregon racing's unofficial Graham Watson. Apparently, he works at River City, saw this nice pair of wheels come through - thought it a bit strange that someone was shipping wheels from Portland, Oregon to Oakton, Virginia...and recognized my name. Which prompted him to hunt through his archives to send me the above picture.

I realize it may seem trivial to anyone else reading this...but to me, it's the little coincidences like this....little coincidences that keep happening to me when I'm in Oregon, that make the place so special. Thanks, Mike! I'll be calling you in no time to buy more pictures from you. I'll make it worth your time.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

More Rain…and Some Sun

Sunday morning was supposed to be another day of 30% chance of rain, but as previously noted, this being an Oregon forecast, that should be amended to read, “there is a 100% chance it will rain 30% of the day”. So, the Oregonians (Campbell, Randall, and nominally, me) were not surprised to wake up to gloomy overcast weather and drizzle.

Rather than try to slog ourselves over Shotgun in the rain, we rode Long McKenzie (35 miles). It rained the whole time and it was generally miserable weather, but it was nice to be on the bike on such nice roads.

After we cleared Springfield, and crossed under I-5 on McKenzie View, it occurred to me as I blabbering about some memories to John, how beautiful this simple little ride really is. Short McKenzie and Long McKenzie are rides that local cyclists take for granted, because they’re both so accessible. But, because McKenzie View Road is sandwiched between the McKenzie River (to the South) and the foothills of Shotgun Creek park, it is a spectacular road, if you take the time to study your surroundings. At multiple points the road is no more than 50 feet from the river and only about 15 feet above the water level. At the same time, the hills to the north rise some 2500 feet immediately off the road. It is really spectacular, especially because you’re never more than a 30-minute bike ride from Downtown Eugene. The entire road is lined with green. Green everywhere. Trees, grasses, meadows, rivers, moss.

At the end of McKenzie View, the road dumps out to a “T” intersection that is bounded by a huge meadow with a view up the McKenzie River basin. For Oregon, it is a remarkably mundane view, but when you’ve been stuck on the East Coast, deprived of West Coast beauty, it is simply stunning.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Oregon Sunshine

Well, we got to Eugene on Saturday morning right on time. Campbell showed up, we suited up and headed out of town up and over Lorane Highway to the base of Wolf Creek....and it started to rain...and rain....and rain. We ended up riding both climbs on Wolf Creek and the rest of the way home in a fairly heavy (for Oregon) downpour. Wolf Creek was a beautiful as ever, with fog wandering through the trees and the trees actually keeping the road dry in many places.

But, by the time we got to Lorane, we were all soaked to the bone. And the descent down Fox Hollow back into town was bitter cold. Overall, it would have been nice if the weather had been better, but it was an epic ride nonetheless. And the motel had a hot tub when we got back...and that made everyone's day.

Sunday it looks like it's still wet on the ground, but the weather forecast is predicting only a 30% chance of showers, so I think today is a day for Cottage Grove instead of Shotgun. It wouldn't be fun to ride that hill in wet, slippery, miserable conditions.

Two of the kids Dave Campbell coaches won Oregon state championship track titlesward last night. While Randall, John and I were luxuriating in the hot tub/sauna, Campbell ran over to Hayward field (in the rain) to watch his kids run. Excellent end to a nice day.

I felt fantastic on the bike. Still - obviously - lacking in base miles, which was very apparent on the climbs, but my legs felt fantastic on Wolf Creek II and on the flats leaving Lorane...all the way to the base of Fox Hollow. Which makes me very hopeful for later this summer.

Friday, May 26, 2006

I'm outta here!

Stay tuned for daily updates, pictures, and stories from the West Coast!


I'm doing the happy dance!

Oh...I wonder what today is?

Huh, I think it's Friday, May 26. That didn't take long. I wonder what I'm going to do this weekend?

Hmmmm...let me think about that for one second: I think I'll go for a ride or four. Maybe take the bike out on some tasty Lane County roads, partake of some delicious Coast Range scenery, and enjoy the company of three excellent friends.

Maybe have a McMenamin's Rubinator or two.

Yeah, that sounds good.

See you all in 12 hours!


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mr. Simon

I met John on a mtn bike ride in the mid-summer of 2000, on a mtn bike ride near our old house in Springfield. John was a mountain biker, period. As best I recall, he had no use for a road bike. He was (and is) more talented on a mtn bike than I could ever hope to be, and he was as fit as riding in NoVa required. He regularly schooled me on mtn bike rides....and he did it with ease.

I don't really remember how or when he decided to get a road bike. But, the first thing I do remember about John and his "road bike" is that it was an abomination to the term. It was an aluminum GT with a triple crankset and it was the damn ugliest thing I had ever laid eyes on. But, it had skinny 700c tires, and it went uphill better than a mtn bike. So, we rode together. I was desperate for normal company, which, in D.C. was in short supply. John was more than normal, he was cool. But, don't get me started on the ills of this area...just don't.

The second thing I remember about that bike is taking John for his first real "mountain" ride up Thornton Gap, and having John nearly lose his lunch on, what he will now readily admit, is a pretty standard climb. O.K., O.K., he did pass a rotting deer carcus, but still...

Anyways, over the course of the next several years, John progressed from total novice, to accomplished roadie. Shaved legs and all. During that time, I tried to do for John what Campbell had done for me so many years prior in Eugene: act as an encourager, a low-key guide to the intricacies of enjoying a road bike. I can happily report that it worked. John has turned himself into a damn fine roadie. In fact, the idea that John is so comfortable on a road bike, is one of the bigger reasons why I'm so eager for him to meet the Oregon contingent.

Anyways, the first time I knew I had a true roadie convert on my hands was back in 2001 at the Seagull Century. The Seagull Century is, as the name implies, a 100-mile ride near the beach in Maryland. The Seagull was John's first century. And, actually, the ride consisted of me, my awesome wife Jacqueline (on her first century) and John, (on his). And, the reason I'm recounting this story here, is because I think you can tell a lot about a roadie by his (or her) reaction to their first century. If they like it, then you've got a roadie on your hands. If they don't, then...well, you don't.

Anyways, by the time we rolled around to mile 80 (after a brief lunch at mile 60) John and Jacqueline were settling in to the pace and distance quite well. But, if we were going to make the 5 hour cut-off, we were going to have to pick up the pace. I was confident that everyone knew how to draft, so I started to gently increase the pace, until (as we passed mile 85) we were doing a steady 25 mph. Believe me, after 85 miles, motoring along at 25 takes some effort. And for the next 15 miles John and I traded pulls at a steady 25/26 mph. pace, with Jacqueline sitting behind us in the draft, gutting it out like a real stud-ette. As we rolled back to where we had parked the cars, John noticed that his cyclocomputer registered 98 miles, instead of an even 100. And as Jacqueline and I chilled out, replenished our water, and started to decompress after 5 hours on the bike, John rode an extra 2 miles, until he had his century.

And that's how I knew I had turned Mr. Simon into a roadie, once and for all.

Oh, and sometime before the Seagull, John went out and bought himself a real road bike. A Landshark. A Landshark with the most beautifully intricate, deep, complex, paintjob I have ever seen on a bike. Bar none. If you like the picture, you should see it in person. It's stunning.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Fox Hollow Road

Does anyone else remember the small vintage signs on the right hand-side of the road, near the top of Fox Hollow Road?

Ten years ago, whenever I rode up Fox Hollow on my way out of town I would pass this series of small, conspicuous signs sitting up on the bank of the road, spaced at 50 foot intervals. They were tiny billboards, really... Each mini billboard held two or three words from some ad campaign from the 50's (I suspect) and the ads always had something to do with shaving cream or razors, or some masculine-related grooming product. It always took a reasonable amount of effort to string together the words to form the sentence. You couldn't see them all at once, and they usually had some ridiculous rhyming jingle.

I don't know who owned the signs, or if he ever intended for anyone to notice them for they were far too small for anyone but a cyclist or a pedestrian to notice. But, the chance that you'd find a cyclist or a pedestrian that far up that road was, if not remote, then certainly not highly probable. And whoever the collector was, he was busy, because the signs changed quite frequently.

Actually, these signs were located just below "Bill's Bench". I'll have to check and see if they're still there.

All Day Thursday, 'til 3 o'clock Friday...

and I'm outta here! That's all that's left. Less than 48 hours!

The long-awaited vacation to the Pingellian Sufferfest is about to begin. I'm really looking forward to it this year. Last year, as I wrote below, I had no idea what to expect -except a flood of memories from ten years ago. This year, I have all the memories from one year ago - and that's making me really anxious. Last year wasn't just as good as I had hoped, it was better. Much better. The friendships I had wondered about were as solid as ever. The camaraderie was was just three guys hanging out riding ourselves silly and catching up on each other's lives. It is a true blessing (for me, anyways) to have friendships like these. Friends you can live across the country from, not hear from for 5 years, and then meet up again and glide right back into the comfort of knowing you're hanging with life-long friends. The foundation never changes.

Eugene, too, seemed completely unchanged...almost like I had entered some strange time warp. On several rides I had intense memories come flooding back. For instance, there's this one stretch of Erickson Road that is paved with a particular pea gravel and tar substance that is unlike any other road in Eugene. Why is it different? I have no idea. But, ten years ago, the tar used to melt on hot days and when you rode a bike over it, the tar would make these little "pop" noises. On our first day last year, Randall and I turned down Erickson (it was 92 degrees) and when I heard the popping it was almost like hearing a chorus of voices welcoming me home: "Welcome back to all the wonderful, glorious roads you used to love....we've been waiting so long for you to come back...."

But that wasn't the only road that had a deja-vu effect on me, nor was it the first time I'd experienced an incredible coincidence on the roads around Eugene. Let me explain.

Back in 1978 my parents were looking for a way to get out of California. I didn't know it until many years later, but one of the places they looked into was Eugene. My parents never ultimately moved out of San Diego, and they never really talked about all the places they had looked...although, they had taken my brother and me on a house-hunting trip that year. Being 8 at the time, I had no recollection of it by the time I chose to go to college at the UofO ten years later. Anyways, to make a long story short, one day during my freshman year, I was riding up Fox Hollow Road and was overwhelmed by deja vu. I could not figure out why. To my recollection, I had never been to Eugene, and I had certainly never been to this remote section of Fox Hollow Road. After telling my folks what had happened, my Dad confirmed that they had looked at a house on Fox Hollow Road in 1978....and it was the same house I was in front of earlier in the week.

Not the world's biggest coincidence...just another indication of how special Eugene has been for me over the years.

p.s. The bikes were hand delivered to the lovely folks at FedEx at 3 p.m. today. Keep an eye out for them, Randall!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Lorane Valley

A big reason why riding in Eugene is so excellent has to do with the Lorane Valley to the southwest of Eugene city limits. You may spend ten or fiteen minutes riding before you actually crest the top of the Lorane Highway, but as nice as riding in Eugene is, it doesn't begin to describe the excellent riding in the valley. From the Thursday nighter course, to the Wednesday night hill ride (Bailey Hill, Briggs Hill, Doan, Gimpl Hill, Central Rd, Fox Hollow, McBeth, , and Green Hill, to the unpaved sections of Hamm Rd) to the entrance to Wolf Creek, the Smith River ride, the Cottage Grove, the Lorane Valley is Eugene's best terrain and the start or end of nearly every great ride in town.

The terrain is almost endlessly varied, and the only thing truly missing is mountain passes.


Getting close.

Last night the reality of Eugene finally set in. Mainly because until now everything had been planning, with no activity required. I haven't had to DO anything to get ready, other than make plans.

Starting last night I had to pick up a bike box, get all the bike packing gear, gather and clean all my cogsets, tools, and assorted junk, and start to put everything in place. Whew, there's a lot to do. Basically, I have to be completely packed by Tuesday night (TONIGHT!) because the bikes get shipped tomorrow and I have to put a majority of my cycling-related junk inside the bike box! That makes for lean travel on Friday, but it also means I have to get right now.

Add to that the Tuesday night ride I'm doing tonight, and I'm looking at being busy well into the evening.

On Friday, the flight leaves IAD (Dulles) at 6:05 p.m. and arrives in PDX at 8 p.m. We'll be riding the old roads before we know it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Five Days

Got one good ride in this weekend. The bike gets packed up on Tuesday, after the local Tuesday nighter. Then, Wednesday morning it gets picked up by FedEx for it's luxury next-day delivery to Randall's spectacular house.

Last night I made one change to the set-up that I'm looking forward to testing out. I've been riding a pair of Dura Ace "SPD-R" pedals for several years now (lower picture). I switched to those from a pair of Campy Chorus "Look-style" pedals that were fantastic, but I loaned them out to a kid on a local cycling club and never saw them again.

Anyways, last night I "borrowed" my wife's new Dura-Ace pedals (top picture) and spent an hour or so getting the cleats fitted on my shoes and tweaking the adjustment. They're so much nicer. They feel more like my old Campys....which is a very good thing. The platform feels much bigger, and my foot feels like it's further down "in" the pedal, instead of "on" the pedal. It's surprising how much difference such a seemingly small thing like the size of the pedal/shoe platform can make in how secure a pedal feels. The SPD-Rs are not that much smaller, but they feel tiny in comparison.

Friday, May 19, 2006


One week, guys.

And my "form" is coming along nicely. Yes, I'm still WAY out of shape, and I'm still slow, but I can feel progress. And I will absolutely be in better shape than last year! Yippee!

Rode the NoVa Thursday nighter last night and made a nice ride of it. The best part, though, was coming home and walking down the stairs and realizing that my quads were really sore after the pounding I given them on the ride. I haven't had that feeling in years. YEARS! I haven't felt strong in years. Do you hear me!? I'm so excited to finally be back on track.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Over the last 3 years or so, I've been experimenting with my riding position, in an effort to recreate some of the on-the-bike sensations I had before I switched frames (and as a result) unwittingly altered my position. About 3 years ago, after riding a whole lot one summer, I started to wonder at my legs' inability to get a really good workout. I could ride for hours, hammer myself silly, and my legs still felt wooden. I could NOT make my leg muscles feel like they were getting a workout.

So...I went back through some old training diaries, looked at a bunch of pictures I had of my racing days, and noticed that I had a lot of success on a very old bike of mine - the Kenevans. A bike I had ditched partly because it was old and tired, partly because it was rickety (actually, downright scary) going downhill, and partly because I thought a different bike would be cool. So, in an experiment, I dug my old rickety "Kenny" out of the attic and rebuilt it. Even though it was as scary as ever, my legs felt great after rides. This is the bike I took to Oregon last year. Well, earlier this year, I went back to Landshark (who built the original replacement bike (and several subsequent bikes) for the Kenevans) and asked him to take the best of the Kenevans (the riding position) and blend it with the best of the bikes he had previously built for me: the stability, light weight, beauty, and "feel". When the "grey" Shark arrived (pictured below) I built it up with some trepidation and started riding it. Of course, being a Shark, it went downhill like a big autobahn-burning Mercedes. Fast, confident, bullet proof. Up until now, though, my fitness had been too bad to really determine if the riding position was "right".

That is, until Tuesday night. I rode a local race-ride, and started catching glimpses of the power my legs used to have. My legs actually hurt after the ride. I know that sounds weird - that I'm actually excited I made my quads hurt - but it's such an encouraging sign. I'm not fit yet, but at least now, the work I do will pay dividends...instead of just dropping down a bottomless hole.

Oregon should be GOOD for the legs.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


days. Nine days left. It's like waiting for Christmas when you're a 5 year-old. Sheesh, I haven't been this anxious in a long while.

Went for the Tuesday-nighter last night. Rode with the fast bunch and hung longer than I expected. I wonder what my endurance will be like when I get back from Oregon. I would like to think 400 miles in 4 days would whip me into some decent shape.

Here's another shot from Wolf Creek. This is right after the big descent off Wolf Creek Road proper, in an area that was clear cut between 1993 and 2004. This used to be completely overgrown. So much so that the road surface was covered with moss. Not any more, thankfully.

Monday, May 15, 2006

12 days

296 hours left. Give or take. I'm not anxious. Not at all. Can't you tell...?

The ride itinerary:

The big question (in my mind) for this year is whether we should tackle the "Upper Smith River Loop" the day after we hit Shotgun. It's a stunning ride, but it would mean riding two of Eugene's toughest rides, back to back. Totally different rides, and tough for totally different reasons: Shotgun's climb is the steepest thing I've ever ridden anywhere. My NatGeo "Topo" program indicates there's a stretch of Shotgun Creek Road that hits 34% for appx. 500 meters - with the rest of the road pitching upwards at between 14 and 24%. Not exactly a cakewalk. It absolutely takes every bit of strength in your legs to get up the beast. For reference 34% is steeper than any part of the "Brasstown Bald" stage of the Tour of Georgia.

Smith River, on the other hand, never really hits you that hard. It's a slow, steady drain of rolling hills, tough descents, and tight, narrow roads that demand your attention. Plus, by the time you think you're done with the climbing on Smith River and Elk Creek roads, you drop out onto Siuslaw River Road just in time to hit all the big climbs on Wolf Creek. So before youstart to climb out of Wolf Creek, you've already ridden 70 tough miles.

Smith River Rd, Shotgun Creek, and Elk Creek Rd are all Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) roads. BLM roads are always tough to ride on because they’re not like “normal” roads. They're paved well, generally, but they're . . . different. They turn in odd directions, there are off camber turns, they take unconventional routes up and over and around obstacles and they’re narrow, overgrown and often graced with a furry-green strip of moss growing down the middle of the road. Finally, where Shotgun is relatively frequently traveled (if you can call less than 1 car per day “frequent”) Smith River is remote, and Elk Creek is as close to “lost in the woods” as any road in Oregon. I have ridden Smith River and Elk Creek probably 20 times, and I've never seen a car on either road. Add all that together, and Smith River is a big undertaking.

But, Smith River is in absolutely amazing ride. There's no ride I know of in Eugene that is as remote, or covers such isolated terrain but is still accessible by bike, without having to drive to the route. Depending on how roughly Shotgun abuses me, I think I’m voting for a “yes” for Smith River.

Friday, May 12, 2006

the Grim Reaper....

In an earlier post, I described Shotgun Creek - and how excellent it was to ride that hill, especially in such good company. But, to completely account for how tough last year's ride was, here's a bit of insight: After making it through the park and through Brownsville, and down Gap Road the route drops you out onto North Coburg Road (or Powerline Rd if you ride a bit further west). Anyways, this "should" be the easiest section of the ride: It's flat; there's usually a tailwind; and you're so close to home, you can practically smell the kitchen at Steelhead Brewery. Last year, however, Shotgun sucked every last drop of power out of my legs. Literally, I had nothing left. So, when we turned onto Coburg and there was a gusty 35+mph headwind, I knew it was going to be ugly.

But to add to that misery, Campbell (of course) had plenty of power in reserve....and so did Randall. Which meant that I was the only one without anything in the legs. Being the pigheaded troglodyte I am, I took as many pulls as I could, until I bonked and then it was all I could do to simply find the draft, let alone stop drooling on myself. But, then, just as I thought I had won the battle against having to ride the last 5 miles alone, I noticed Campbell's normally tidy pedalstroke began to wobble. And then he sat bolt upright, almost like he was gasping for air...which was followed by, "Awwww....Jeez-uhs, Randall!" At this point, I was in such a daze, I wasn't thinking about anything at all. I was just thankful the pace had slowed...I had no idea what was coming. And then, almost like being suffocated by the dark cape of the Grim Reaper, this invisible, but impenetrably nauseating gas cloud crept around Campbell's upper body and rudely stepped into the draft behind his wheel. Suddenly, the thin little strand of hope I had been clinging to snapped. Broke off right in my hand. And it wasn't a physical barrier that had snapped. I had bonked - easily a half hour before this point. Nope, it wasn't physical, it was an emotional strand. The enormity of the crime Randall had committed was beyond my emotional ability to assimilate. I stopped pedaling and my breathing went from deep, controlled breaths, to lunging, heaving gasps, almost sobs. My lungs sucked in this awful musty tobacco scented mildewy filth that had an almost slimy-oily consistency to it. You could not only smell it, you could *feel* it....make that CHOKE on it.

Let's hope we don't have a repeat of that episode.

But, I guess the point of the story is, that any ride that can make me bonk, and THEN make me want to cry, has got to be an epic.


Fourteen Days remain. 345 hours. Actually, 344.5 hours, to be exact.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Oregon in May, Part 2

Last year, the Pingellian Sufferfest was a novelty. No one knew what to expect. I knew I wasn't in shape, but, I figured there's no pain-free way to get in shape, so what the heck. Good friends and good rides would make it easier.

I was surprised we pulled it off as well as we did. Arriving in Portland, not having seen these guys in almost 10 years, I didn't know what to expect. Fortunately, Randall was ultra-cool and within the first 30 seconds, it was like I had just gone to the store to pick up some beer. Ten years? Naw...Total time warp: Ten years disappeared in the time it took me to read his t-shirt.

After two days of the total luxury of Wolf Creek in 90-degree weather, we hit out for Shotgun Creek in typical "Eugene" weather. High clouds, light drizzle, and wind. Perfect weather for 90 miles and one climb. It's really hard to describe Shotgun Creek, because the ride is essentially 40 flat miles, punctuated by one short climb, a quick descent, followed by 4o flat miles. But, wow, Shotgun was everything I remembered: Severely steep, beautiful, isolated, wild. We had a great time. Some of the best footage from the entire trip was taken on the descent.

I only hope that this year I make it up the climb without that ridiculous tingling feeling in my forearms and calves....that comes from lack of oxygen.



Here's where we'll be staying: Best Western New Oregon Motel Here's another picture from Google maps: Motel

There are 2 Best Western motels on Franklin Blvd, so make sure you go to the right one. Dave.

Nothing fancy, but we have adjacent, ground floor, double Queen bed rooms. Parking at the door.

8 a.m. Saturday, May 27. Randall and the Virginia Contingent will be ready to roll. Too bad the SoCal contingent (ahem, Davanzo, ahem) couldn't drag his lumpy behind out of cushy SaMo to join us.

A Preview of What's Coming...

Tasty roads and good company: Link

15 days...

Rode home from work last night. I love the late Spring. Just enough heat in the air to make shorts and short sleeves comfortable, but very little humidity. I can feel small improvements in form coming along. Experimented with a slightly different pedal stroke while climbing seated: a slightly exaggerated heel drop, coupled with a slightly earlier than normal "scraping mud off your shoe" motion. I'm not fit enought or strong enough right now to notice any tremendous difference, but it felt slightly smoother - like I was working a different set of smaller muscles, instead of just the quads/hams. Long way to go to get fit.

Things are looking good this weekend. Got another 60 mile grunt fest planned. Exactly what I need.

The picture is taken along Siuslaw River Road, looking West over the Coast range. Wolf Creek area.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Last Year

was the first-ever Pingellian sufferfest. Modeled after the highly amusing, Campbellian crabfest from the mid 90's. Last year's event was sparsely attended: just me, Randall, and Campbell. This year we'll add one: My good buddy John will be flying out from Virginia to join us. He'll be an excellent addition. Anyways, last year, in 4 days in Eugene we had two days of stellar weather and two days of "Eugene" weather.

The first day in Eugene, Randall and I hopped on our bikes, rode from the motel through campus and wandered south, up and over Lorane Highway and into the valley. Not sure how ambitious we should be, I turned on the auto pilot, and we were shortly at the top of Wolf Creek. It's not very often that you find temperatures in the mid-90's in the Lorane Valley, so we continued and ultimately rode the entire loop, enjoying the heat. Instead of coming home the "normal" way, we rode up the back of Fox Hollow Road (where it intersects McBeth Road) before heading back down into town.

Before we started up the actual hill, I remembered flying up that hill in my big ring at the end of a stage in the Tour of Willamette in 1991. This year, I groveled my way up at my HR limit, struggling to turn the pedals in a 39x25. Ouch.

At the top of Fox Hollow there's a small bench hidden just off the road: "Bill's bench" reads the inscription. My Dad absolutely loves this spot. Whenever he would come up to Eugene to visit me at college, we would drive up there, grab a seat and look out over the simple beauty of Oregon's Coast Range. I'm not sure why, exactly, he liked that particular spot. It wasn't extraordinarily beautiful, in the sense that there are hundreds of other spots with similar views, but he did. So, when I go back this year, I'll take a picture of all of us on the bench and post it here, for my Dad to enjoy. Here's another picture of one of the amazing roads in southwest Lane County: This is "Elk Creek Road." If you know where that is, or if you've ridden that road, you are one of very few people who know why Eugene is such an amazing place for a cyclist.

16 days and counting...

The Pingellian sufferfest is approaching and I'm starting to get anxious...and nervous. I definitely want to be in better shape than last year. I suffered last year. And I would really like to be much stronger this year.

Rode 58 miles on Saturday at a moderate pace. Lots of grunt-climbing. A ton of fun. The bike felt great. I was generating power from the right place - after the ride my legs hurt in the right way, and in the right place.

Rode in to work this morning, and felt O.K. Legs are still a bit neutral. Can't decide if that's because I'm undertrained (obviously) or if my position still needs some tweaking. I still have power in short bursts, but nothing sustainable.

This picture is about halfway around Wolf Creek, on one of the smaller hills on Siuslaw River Road on the way to the little hamlet of Lorane. Almost exactly halfway through the ride. I'll have to remember to post more pictures of this road when I'm out there.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Oregon in May, Post 1

Getting ready for Eugene in May.

The bike is ready to go.