Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bruce on the Bike

Breakfast, Canyon de Chelly
 The Mighty Trek is in the shop, so I'm out on the Titanium LeMond - an awesome bike!  I'm not sure but I believe the LeMond may have a compact cassette? No matter - I've been looking at my times riding down to the first pull-out (Mummy Cave) and I noticed that my average speed is up from 13 - point something to 14.9 - my fastest time!  I am happy - some improvement.  

Pretty much it may be that I'm not taking pictures - mainly pictures for the blog - that can slow me down.  What can I take pictures of for you?  Basically I'm coming down the mountains, the Chuskas, part of the Defiance Plateau - and what has eroded over the thousands and thousands (millions?) of years from the snow melt is Canyon de Chelly.  You would not know it was there at all.  I ride about a mile from the edges, which drop down dramatically 800 to 900 feet.

There's ways in and out that my Navajo friends and co-workers know, but you would need four-wheel drive or horse - or you could walk. 

I've wanted to see about a loop I could do - but really it's a down and back for me Gentle Readers.  Good for training.  I bet mostly I'm more conditioned to the altitude which is why I can seem to ride a bit faster.  Anyway, should something catch my eye that I want to photograph, I will stop and pull out the camera.

I see ponies often.  This ride, I saw wild ponies when suddenly they heard me, and then bolted!  I heard a stick snap as they took flight.  They did stop and give me intense, curious looks!  By now you would think they know what I am - a human moving on the road where cars should be - swiftly and silently - why?  What is it doing? 

Local Bike Shop, Farmington, New Mexico
 Repairs will be done soon and I'll be back in Farmington to pick up the bike.  

My plan is to put in the miles, get fit, and then do a ride over Buffalo Pass.  Today one of my colleagues said she saw a bunch of riders going over the pass - so I am inspired.  They were in a group, which is safer.  I'll be on my own so I'm more afraid of getting hit by a car than anything else.

I just wish the roads were better and I had a few more options for rides.  It may be that I'll have to drive someplace with the car, and do a ride that way.

Okay - thanks for stopping by the blog!

Cheers!  Bruce

Monday, July 14, 2014

Burned Up

Come to Church
Up here in the High Country on this part of the Reservation they have a Monsoon Season - just like Tucson Days.  But there's not as much humidity and it doesn't get super hot like back in Tucson.  It has been refreshing, that mountain rain - but that rain the last few weekends has kept me out of the saddle.  The Mighty Trek is still out of action as well, Gentle Readers, so during the a rainy week, I tweaked and adjusted the LeMond, and first thing this past Saturday morning, I set out for a ride!

I can't say for sure, but this is probably a Native American Church Ceremony.  I did know some "Peyote Boys" back in South Dakota - and later I got to know some Oklahoma Indians in the Peyote Church, which is what I used to sometimes hear them say.   I met many Haskell students that did a lot of scholarly writing on the Native American Church - and learned that the Church was very underground for a long time.   You could go to federal prison for practicing.  I did stop and take a quick picture - people outside and around gave me a friendly wave so all is right in the World!
Antelope Pullout
No triple ring to get me up and over the couple of hills out here.  I felt pretty good and made quick work of the first big climb, Benally Hill - and then was at the Massacre Cave Pullout, the first of the three Pullouts at Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument,  in very good time - and I felt great!  I looked at my cell phone and the Strava App (did not hook up my Garmin) and I had made it down averaging 15.7 mph.  Okay!

I feel, for the most part, fit - I can tell my jersey fits me a bit better, particularity around my neck and shoulders.  I used to not be able to zip up my jersey to around my neck but now I can - so I've lost some fat (I guess?) from my upper body.  Hey I'm still kinda fat, but feels good when your clothes fit and you can ride at 7200 ft and not blow-out your lungs onto the road!

I was riding the Titanium LeMond - a sweet machine indeed!  I was not planning to go out further and longer, but I though why not?  It was still early and there was no tourist traffic - and everything felt right - I was in that groove.  It just felt like the bike needed and wanted to keep going. 

Things took a bit of a turn as I was coming back - I needed more water.  It was hotter than I though - hotter as you get off the mountains.  And the clouds were rolling in and the wind was not going to favor my return trip.

Also, not having the three-ring and having to work a bit harder on the Arrive, I needed to hydrate - and was out of water and had very little for the return.  I made a bad choice of wanting to try to extend the ride on Hwy 12, which was up-hill with bad pavement, and really I should have just cut home and made my ride shorter.  

Bon jour la bon jour

I burned-up this ride.  I got home and just could not recover.  I slept all day, ate way too much of my food because I couldn't shake the starving feeling I had - then felt better late evening - and had trouble sleeping.  Things were just off.

Now I'm okay...  I think what it is, is that I've been working too hard - my boss has been on vacation so I've been working later in the evening and not having time to go out after work to be in the saddle and loosen up.

Riding 45 miles pretty hard and not prepping means things are going to be harder - especially when it suddenly gets hot, you're not drinking enough, and the trip back is all climbing in a headwind.

Cheers!  Bruce

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer in the High Country

 The Wind has been fierce - it kept me inside after work, and on the weekends.   First Day of Summer and the Wind has died down - so really need this time to get out on the bike and ride, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  Last time I think I rode was June 6th, in Bozeman!

 A few weeks ago, a fire started at a camp ground up here on the Reservation.  Somebody was careless, and then the wind really got to  blowing!  A fire was out of control right away.  Here it is the day it started on a Friday afternoon.

 By Saturday you can see that it has grown - actually split into three separate large fires.

 Several days later, it's still going.  Pretty much just burned itself out.  Many people have summer camps in the area, and people's cattle and horses out grazing.  Fire Fighters for the Navajo Nation helped round up fleeting stock.  I also heard that many camps were lost, and some spiritual areas were destroyed.  Medicine People say that the fire was telling the Dine to pay attention - the think about things and be respectful - and mindful - about life and the spirit side.  Being careless, thoughtless, and unfeeling can result in destruction.

 I wasn't sure how ready I was or how far I wanted to ride - but once I got on the bike, I started feeling happy!  I just keep riding and spinning - the wind was gone - and I was flying down the road.

 Even Benally Hill didn't seem so tough.  This is right at 7200 feet, according to my Garmin, so it is the highest spot around.  As always, hills for me are tough.  But living in the high altitude has conditioned me - and I'm glad.

 I've just turned around to take a shot for you of where I've come from. 

I make good time down the road and I just kept going past the first Pullout, and then the second, which was Antelope Pullout.  I found in all my stuff, my little Messenger Mirror from my Tucson Days.  I was glad I had it, as I could see behind me - and see that there was little or no traffic.  At one point, I saw headlights on a few miles back in my mirror.  When I turned to look, I could see about about 50 or more motor cycle riders now about a mile behind me.

As I rode on, I began to hear the roar of the machines, and soon they were passing by, two-by-two for what seemed forever!  I waved and all waved and beeped their horns as well.  I was on the long long stretch or straight road as they passed.  I could hear them all in chorus as they pulled into the Antelope Pullout and wound down the scenic lookout into Canyon de Chelly.

I rode on and the sound faded.  I began the fast descent into Chile, Gentler Reader, and soon was coming to the last few miles of steep and curvy road that led to Visitor Center.  I was glad no traffic was behind me -glad I had my little mirror - as I was able to speed down and then zip right into the parking lot!  The 25 miles I rode down, I averaged 15.4 mph - which I thought was awesome!

While at the Visitor Center refilling my bottles and eating a Cliff Bar real quick - several Italians arrived by car and began asking me all kinds of questions about Route 66.  They saw my Oklahoma Jersey, and the Route 66 shield and told me they had stayed in Tulsa as part of their trip.  They had started in Chicago and were driving 23 days ending down to San Francisco - actually Hwy 66 ended in Santa Monica, but no matter - they were happy and took my photo as I took theirs too.  And as always they wanted to know where I had ridden my bike from, as the area is a bit remote.  After all that good cheer and well-wishes for safe travel, I started the big, long climb out of the Park and back to The College.

 I had only gone a few miles, climbed out of the hardest part, when I heard a ping, or zing.  Not sure what was going on - but started to notice I could not shift into my bigger gears on my three-ring.  I was in my small ring (granny gear) because you need it to climb out of the canyon back up - and then saw the break.  Yikes!

Well, I tied to pull the cable to try to get the gear to change.  I tried to pull the chain onto the middle ring, but only got my fingers greasy.  I was in a climbing gear and that's where it was locked, so I just went with it and climbed back home - but a bit slow. 

I just let the tailwind I had do most of the work.  When I was able to pedal with the one gear I had, I did okay - and really what was the rush?  I was lucky that I was in a small gear and not stuck trying to mash a big gear home for 25 miles.

 Finally after all the big long climbs, I got to this sign here - which meant about 6 or so miles of flat road, with a few small climbs, until one last climb up Benally Hill - then four miles of fast descent to home.  The tailwind aided me so I just went along for the ride.

From here, I get the full power of the tailwind.  This is my favorite part because with the wind at your back, you don't get the roar of the wind in your ears as you're flying down from the mountains.  It can be a surreal experience for a few miles, Gentle Reader.

With a climbing gear all I had, I was able to get back up Benally Hill with out much effort - it was just a slow and steady pace.  Then, I simply coasted down and really picked up some speed.  I reached 35 mph quickly!

 I called out to the ponies by the road.  They sure don't like the bike!  They can't hear me coming or if they do, they're just not sure what to make of it - but they always seemed annoyed and bolt off into the trees.  I keep seeing this pair (one is just behind the tree) so I think they're starting to recognize the sound or whatever.  A few times I've come right on them, and other ponies, and I didn't see them and they didn't see me - they sure are quick to run and bolt out on the road and to some place to hide.  Kind of fun, but don't want to cause an accident!

Thanks for stopping by the Blog!

Cheers!  Bruce

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hyalite Canyon Climb - Bozeman, Montana

Dark and Cold Forest
I spent a week in Bozeman as part of a conference for Tribal Librarians.  I'm not much of a conference goer, Gentle Readers of This Blog - especially with people like librarians.  Librarians can be weirdos and deranged mean-spirited old ladies.  I am happy to report that at this conference, I met a very diverse group of professionals - and I had a good time.

Ride just a few mile and you're in Big Sky Country!
Okay, so we have dorms that we're staying in at Montana State University.  Real quick after we arrive I spin downtown and around the beautiful campus.  It is cold and windy, and it rains on and off - I make it to the local bike shop on Tuesday evening and get some info on the ride up to Hyalite Canyon.

Hyalite Canyon will be my Wednesday Big Ride at 40 miles round-trip, as I have a half-day off.  While in Arizona, I went to the Local Bike Shop's website, and got good info on the favorite rides the local roadies do.  Bozeman is a mtn bike town, but the roadies seem well represented too!

Okay I'm off!  I head up to the mtns, chased by a storm cloud!  As you can see, within a few minutes it seems, Bozeman is off in the distance...

Heading out South, and the clouds don't quite know what to do.  But I get some tailwind and as it's a week day, there is no traffic!

Every car I do see has a bike rack, and people are friendly and wave! 

  Big Sky is favoring a roadie like me - the air is fresh and everything is clean!

Mostly it's been flat-slightly up-hill, but after a quick seven miles, I'm ready to start my climb
Living at 7200 feet back in AZ will certainly aid me in my climb!  It will be a serious operation!

The road is narrow, but again, I've seen no cars.   A roaring river runs down besides the road - the canyon route is cold and dark, even for June!  I think I'm at about 6,000 feet.

Making good time, and seeing great landscapes!  The air is crisp and clean - a bit cool, and I'm sweating pretty good.  The sunshine is back and forth - sometimes there's a drop of rain - but I think that cold grey cloud that followed me out of town decided not to climb much more.

The road is smooth and narrow now, and often hugs the side of the mountain - and I feel like I'm slowly gliding over the forest.  It is a tranquil state of being.  Everything is new and fresh - my mind needs this, mes amis...

Hyalite Canyon and The Lake will be at the base of those mountains up ahead.

As always, some of the hardest (for me anyway) climbing is towards the end.  It's steep and there's still some deep patches of snow.   I've ridden about 17 miles and should arrive -

And suddenly I do!  Magnificent reward for my effort!  A beautiful and clear lake!

The Sun comes out, but just for a moment - those clouds up there are bearing down on me - and I can feel the cold wind.  Time to leave here!

I must say - no traffic!  I mean not a soul up here!  I turned around and was really surprised how steep my ride had been.  With a comfortable speed, and a few long straights - I sailed down most of the Hyalite Canyon Rd.  The tricky parts were the dark and cold, deep and curvy last few miles.

Suddenly I am down, and coasting past some lovely meadows - I did not see these coming up the road - this is also a great reward, and a reminder that everything is sacred.  When have I beheld such green and purple?  And known such a fragrant place?  Not is some time, Gentle Reader of This Blog...

Coasting and speeding back to Bozeman with a slight tailwind and gradual descent -  I'm effortlessly riding back at a nice 20 mph.

Downtown Bozeman at the base of the Mountain.  All the work-related, stress and monotony of the conference has left me - I feel alive and refreshed.

Later, I make it to dinner with my boss - we went to a great place downtown - and I drank a few of the local Bozeman beers on tap.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Allure Libre!


Bozeman Fly-By

 I was at a conference for the job - to Bozeman, Montana!  I don't remember ever being in MT, or Big Sky Country - the late afternoon we arrived, I had some time and headed off on the bike to explore.  The College sent us and we had a huge van.  I was able to stow the Mighty Trek on-board. 

 It was Sunday so there was no traffic, and the weather was perfect - I just took off through campus - we were staying at Montana State - and through neighborhoods.  Quickly I was downtown and touring the early Summer evening.

 I will certainly stop by here again, Gentle Readers!

 Bozeman's Library - but that's not where I'll be.  Yeah, for me conferences are boring Dork-Fests - when I get a chance, I'll be out on the bike!

 I got some routes on-line from the local bike shop before I traveled out here.  The next evening I just got out and rode a short 13 mile course - I was amazed how soon I was off Campus and out into farm and ranch land!  Simply beautiful!

I have a longer route into the mountains planned for later in the week when I have half the day off!

Cheers!  Bruce

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Miles Per Hour

Fast rollers in the Pull Out
 After a few weeks of much needed vacation, Gentle Readers of This Blog, I got back up to The College.  I was in KS to see Little Egypt for a spell, and also bid Rico farewell as he's off to Germanland for the summer.  How I wish life was easier, and that we could all live in the same country - but jobs and War have taken us so far for the last few years.  Little E wants me home but, as in AZ all those years ago, there were no jobs.  Also in KS no jobs.  So I work as I do - at least I have a job and in my profession.  It pay the bills.

As much as I want to be home, the mountains and this land, as harsh as they sometimes are - have slowly endeared themselves to me.  I feel in my heart a real love for the land - the birds, the greening grasses and trees - the high strung Mustangs I encounter - and the darting and singing birds everywhere. 

Living at the elevation I do - and in this clear mountain air - I could tell on my vacation that my lungs had power.  I noticed this walking up five flights of stairs at our hotel in Orlando, FL - I found that I was hardly winded.  I'm not bragging - it's just that for many months I could hardly breathe up here.  Now with some time, gradually I am stronger. 

On my return up here, and now that summer has all the students away - it is quiet and slowed down.  The weather was for me, heavenly - so I left my place at 5:45 pm and headed out with the Mighty Trek, and the plan was to ride down the first Pull Out of the Monument, and return.

A rare evening ride for Yours
 No traffic as I roll out, mes amis.  I see my pals, like Le Tigre down in Tucson, with incredible average speeds!  Try as I may, I can't seem to get that MPH up.  Compared to last time when I rode down to the Mummy Cave Pull Out at Canyon de Chelly, I was just a wee bit slower.  Today I was at 14.4 MPH average speed for the 30 mile round-trip trek - last time 14.6 average speed.

So I try to take less photos and just pedal - that can slow you down getting the camera out.  Wind plays a part too.  Even though I am riding fast as I can - the headwind will slow me down, and sometimes coming back instead of the tailwind I have a headwind again.

Also compared to when I first went out, I am much improved.  The first trip I did I could barely breathe, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  Not only a struggle for a breath, but feeling the insides of my chest burning on fire, and  my lungs pushing my rib cage out! 
Tsaile, Arizona, Navajo Nation
Tonight I glided and found a groove.  Always difficult the first four miles because I have to climb "Benally Hill."  After that, after the lungs, heart, and rib cage wake up - things are smooth.  Mostly the out trip is down-hill, and I reach my top speed (tonight) of 31 MPH. 

The air is cool and the sun makes everything hazy - the headwind is a winding down and the roar, like in the mornings, is more like an echo in my ears.  Also, I'm not wearing the warmers and jacket.  It's like Tucson Days on the fast commute home - after working and sitting on your butt, your tired body gives way and blood mixed with oxygen being forced into you  and that powers-up your body.

Pretty soon I'm charging into the Pull Out - a coyote eyes me from a safe distance as I zip into the parking lot of Massacre Cave Overlook. 

Going back now, I am tired, mes amis - just keep pedaling.  I have a crosswind that seems more like a headwind mostly - but at some point - I don't know where - I get that tailwind that's so sweet, and now I'm flying back to Tsaile.

For some reason I could not shift down into my small ring (I have a triple ring) and for the last climb up Benally Hill - the real hard last climb that seems to want to kill you - as I said I could not get the thing to shift so I had to just man-up and shred my legs.  I made it okay actually, but I could feel the cramps starting out in my calves - that means I'm in trouble.  But then I sailed down the road you see above, and soon was gliding home.

For a bit later after the ride, the legs cramped but then things were okay. 

Now this evening I need to rest - but tomorrow evening I'll go back out there!

Take care and keep reading my blog.  Check back now and then.  I'm still here!

Cheers!  Bruce

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

An Arrow and an Omelette

At the Entrance of Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument
This past weekend was forecast to be perfect!  I was also invited to attend a breakfast at the hotel restaurant right there at the Monument entrance.  Meeting at 9 am on a Saturday morning meant I'd have to leave The College at 7 am.  Well, at close to 7 am, all set to ride, it was still about 35 degrees!  But just seemed that it would warm quickly as I rode down the mountain - and also there was no wind!  Incredible!  So although there was a sting in the air from the cold, I was quickly rolling out.

With no wind, I flew down Hwy 64 like an arrow!  Part way, I startled some wild ponies and they dashed off and stomped and were bit upset to be surprised by a cyclist.  Again, with no headwind, which is usually the case going down to Chinle, my two hour ride ended up being an hour and 15 minutes from what I could tell.  I just wanted to keep going because I was wanting to keep up a higher average speed.  I hammered really hard - why not?  I mean usually I've go the wind roaring in my ears from riding down - this time it was beautiful!

So I met these people at the restaurant - what it was was my former colleague in this job (I had never met her) and ended up she was passing through town and all her teacher and librarian friends met her and met up with each other.  My breakfast was good - a Denver Omelette -  but mainly everybody was catching up.  It got kind of rowdy and loud - the folks I was with were a bit odd and I didn't really fit in - but they were nice enough. 

Oh yeah, some son-of-a-bitch stole my tool bag from my bike - that really sucked.  So for my hellish ride back up the mountain, I had no patch kit, no wrenches, no spare tube, etc.  Luckily, they didn't take my tire pump.  I took my Garmin off the handle bars and put in my pocket before breakfast - basically anything that someone could steal they took.  This was right at the entrance of the hotel.  Of course I had brought by big (and heavy to carry) bike lock, so at least they didn't steal my bike!

The ride back up was okay at first, but then as I started to get up into the High Country, a very strong cross-wind kind of beat me up.  Also, it was getting pretty warm out!  So I slugged it out for the way home, gusty wind, and hot and sweaty going.

About 8 miles out from Home
I want to tell you that I've shed some weight - about 20 pounds!  Being lighter makes a difference on the bike!  And up in the mountains and with the altitude, being lighter and not a fat guy helps - so what I'm saying is that I feel pretty strong, Gentle Readers of This Blog.  I'm no longer gasping for air like I was on my short commutes to work.

For the 50 mile ride, I averaged 14.5 MPH which is a vast improvement - mainly because there was no wind going down...  As the days are getting warmer and longer, I will try to go out and do a few hours before the sun starts to go down.  

Hwy 64 is really the only safe road for me to ride on - its good training for sure, but I'd like to get out and do some more riding to other places.  Just have to do an out and back - unless I want to do about 20 miles on narrow, busy, and really bad rez roads.  I just don't think I'm ready just yet!

Cheers!  Bruce

The Rock with Wings

I've been driving to The College campus in Shiprock, NM, a few days a week to help out at the library there.  Those mornings I drive over the mountain and then I pass Shiprock - I must tell you Gentle Readers of This Blog - it really is out in the middle of nowhere...  Shiprock is the largest city or town on the Rez.  There's a good Chinese Place there.  Living where I do in Tsaile, I'm pretty far from most everything, so I welcome a chance to eat out.

Still, I am amazed at the vastness of the this place.  I was visiting Tucson not long ago, and the first thing that I struck by was all the people!  Everything was so crowded it seemed.  Here at The College, the landscape is mostly the high country - in Tucson, it's Walmart, CVS or Walgreens on every corner - and just other shit you don't need.  And again, all the cars and people and everyone rushing around.

I stayed with my friends and neighbors up in Dog Mtn!  The pups are always glad to see me, and its a chance for my friends B and H to take a break and sleep in, while the dogs and I go for long walks in the desert!

Weather is warmer and I am still riding my bike everywhere.  May is Bike to Work Week, and believe me -  my bike works! 

It was the Pow Wow and I went as many of my friends were dancing.

My boss' people hail from Oklahoma where I'm from - here is is representing the Cherokee Nation.

When I was in Tucson it was 90 degrees on the campus - it was beautiful and awesome!  I drove back to a few inches of snow on the ground and very cold and windy weather.  But, thank goodness, those winds and rain and snow clouds are fading, and warm weather is here!

Cheers!  Bruce