My commute in pictures

I just have some pics from my commute and rides thereabouts that I wanted to toss out here for anyone to see. Because I live in a beautiful place that makes me happy.

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Bikepacking with the kiddo

School ended here on Wednesday, and I was off Thursday and Friday. My son has been talking about wanting to take the tandem and ride to Camden (I feel like we’re gonna get some good tongue twisters out of this idea) for about half the year, but I told him that a ride like that, even if you take a few days, requires some shorter practice runs to serve as training. He was down with that. Almost two years ago we attempted a trip to Freeport, one way, on our own individual bikes, but that was during a chillier time of year and we underprepared just enough to make it unpleasant. We still went fourteen miles before the wife came and picked us up. And we did have fun. He even mentioned some of the snacks we’d brought on that trip when we were planning this one.

In between he has done a lot of riding around with me, and we’ve gone on a few group rides that cover 10-20 miles. He’s into it, and he feels (properly) like a badass when we go out on the bike.

When I first got rid of my personal car I was limited by how far Ezra could ride if I didn’t want to do some sort of vehicular shuffle with my wife to get him from place to place. But since getting the tandem it’s been such a wonderful change. We can just chat, and boy does he love to chat! Plus that inherent closeness of a tandem means it’s not work to stay together or ride side by side, and no moving over and into single file occasionally when cars pass. PLUS I got him clipless shoes and pedals so he’s attached to the bike and can’t slack without me noticing. It is rarely an issue, though, to be honest. He’s pretty tough, and if he’s feeling tired I usually am too, so he helps me remember to stop and rest. We usually have great chats with folks we meet while we’re just chilling for a moment.

So what I’m trying to say is that he’s very familiar with the tandem, and he was super psyched to be doing this thing. He’s been listening to me talk about wanting to take a solo trip of a few days and just wander, but this ended up being the first such trip for both of us, and I’m so glad he was there to share it with me. He’s a lot of fun to hang out with.

I had originally planned to pack and prepare a day or two ahead of time, but with this being the last few days of school and things being so hectic all around, that didn’t much happen. But I did make a Don’t Forget list, and I only forgot a couple of things, nothing too important*. You don’t need forks or spoons to eat hot dogs and s’mores.

So on the day I woke up and gathered all the stuff I would need in a little pile. I tried to be as minimalist as possible, and I don’t think I brought anything we didn’t use. We brought a small, 2 person tent, a couple sleeping bags, most of a change of clothes, swim suits, and a few small things to keeps us occupied. I took my time loading up the packs and getting everything on the bike, so we ended up leaving after noon, but I had been aiming for 11am, so it wasn’t way behind schedule. I was concerned that the bike might handle poorly with so much extra weight loaded on the back, but it felt no different, really. The extra pounds might’ve even helped give us some momentum to keep rolling on the flats. We met up with my wife as we were getting onto Route 1 to pick up my helmet that I’d left in her car. Then we were off on a leisurely ride north.

We took Route 1 for a while, then veered onto 88 to keep the traffic light and the views scenic. That met back up with 1 in Yarmouth where we stopped into Rosemont market to see a friend (who wasn’t working), then had lunch at Otto’s pizza. After that we had a pretty straight shot into Freeport, although we did stop for a short rest around 3pm to try to play HQ, but the connection failed us.

We stopped at Bow Street market in Freeport to grab hotdog and s’mores fixins, then we had the final push through the hilliest part of the ride. We only had to walk the bike up one quarter of one hill, so I’d call that a success. We had really been casual in our pacing, so we arrived around 4:20, almost four hours after leaving Portland. We got checked in, found our site, unpacked and set up the tent, then headed to the office and café for fire wood and some French fries. However, without thinking we got the fries first, and by the time we were done the office was closed, so we couldn’t get firewood. My son stopped a gentleman on an ATV and I asked if we could get some wood, but the guy said he had a bunch and he lived nearby, so we told him our site number and he brought us a bundle for free! Thank goodness, too, because we had no other means of cooking our meal that evening.

We got back, built our fire, then chilled out and goofed around. We wandered down by the water and found some horseshoe crab shells. I taught Ezbert to shuffle playing cards. Then we cooked a couple of pouches of veggies in the coals and some corn on the cob, and finally we made hotdogs. We rode back to the office once again to wash up and do our bathroom stuff (*which was very minimal since I left behind all toiletries). We hung out a bit more, then climbed into our tent and I read a chapter from The Tao of Pooh (my father is currently reading it, so I’m refreshing my memory in order to answer any of his questions. And Ez was interested), then turned off our cool, inflatable, solar powered lamp and went to bed.

Now, I did make a couple obvious mistakes in my planning and execution. I had two sleeping pads, one twin sized and one queen sized. The queen wouldn’t fit in my little tent. *Rather than look for another small one, or even just buying an inflatable pool floaty, I opted to let the kid have the pad and I would just sleep on the softest part of the ground. Well guess what, there IS no softest part of the ground. So I lay there zoning out until I finally got exhausted enough to fall asleep around 2am. Ez did a better job.

We woke up at 7:30 and I sent the kid out to do some bird watching while I caught 30 blissful minutes of sleep on the pad. Then we packed up much of the camp and went over to the café for some breakfast sandwiches and yogurt. The food here is really good, and the fries were especially so. After that we loaded up the bike and headed on out for our ride home.

My phone was almost dead, so no pics of the return trip. You’ll just have to trust that I made it home and am not currently wandering through some alternate dimension with my son, solving mysteries and using our newly found super powers for good (mostly). Would that this hoodie were a time hoodie!

Once again we had to walk up one of the hills, but again just a little bit at the end, and it was the last hill before we were back in Freeport. We stopped at the market to get snacks and some Gatorade, and the kid ended up chatting with the lady who had checked us out the day before and telling her all about our trip. She was also a cyclist and was very enthusiastic, which suits Ezra well. Once we got back on the road properly we ended up just taking route one all the way home. We stopped to rest a few times but ultimately made it home in under two hours. Our last stop was just before Back Cove at a lemonade stand run by two little girls. No ice unfortunately, but it still hit the spot, or at least somewhere near the spot. When we pulled into the house I quickly unloaded everything off the bike and took it upstairs. We checked ourselves over for ticks, and then showered and finally brushed our teeth.

I have to say, because if I don’t people might think I am torturing my child, that on the way there and especially on the way home my son kept repeatedly yelling about how much fun he was having and how glad he was that we were doing this. It really made me feel like I was doing something right as a father. To be fair that is not always the case. His one and only complaint was that his butt hurt by the time we got home. This is not a huge surprise since I don’t have any really appropriate seats for long distance writing that I can put on that tandem. But even before we went on this ride I was already searching for something that I knew would work well for him in the stoker position. As luck would have it I found that and something perhaps even better the following day, but that is a story for another time.

My son and I always manage to have fun when we are out on adventures together, and this was no different. Later this summer he wants to do some more long rides that involve camping, so here’s hoping I can get my shit together and make that happen before school starts up again.

Fall #3

   I took a nasty spill on my bike recently during a ride with some friends.  This was the third time in my life I’ve fallen off a bike, and it was a pretty good one so far as they go.  I was riding down a pretty wide bike lane and I began to look back and to my right without first scanning ahead down the lane like I always do.  I had just begun to look when suddenly I was airborne, out of nowhere it would seem. It was so quick and so violent that I had no idea what was really happening until I felt my helmet smack hard against the ground a few times. 

The helmet cracked in three places, but it did its job marvelously

   Now I obviously didn’t get to see the accident take place. But from what I can ascertain from others, from my random snatches of memory, and from the placement of my wounds it seems that, since I was pivoting my body slightly to the right when I hit what turned out to be the discarded lid of a Coleman ice cooler, the bike and I both went flying sideways, my feet still gently grasped by the toe-clips. While I was in the air my body continued to spiral around to my right, so that, what felt like a nanosecond after I struck the lid, I landed mainly on the left side of my body, with most of the damage being done to my back and shoulder. A good bit of flesh was scraped off of my elbow and knee, too, just for good measure. And here’s how I know my yoga classes have been working: I also got a bit of road rash on my right inner thigh. I don’t even know how that’s possible. 



   My only real memory that I retained during the crash went something like, “holy shit!  Am I in mid air?!  I have no sense of where I am right now.”  I closed my eyes instinctively.  I felt like I was floating with no idea where my corporeal bits existed in space for the moment. When I hit the ground my mind, which had expanded outward in my spatial disorientation as it attempted to locate some point of reference, seemed to snap tightly into place right behind my left temple. It watched closely as my helmeted head knocked thrice on the road to make sure no actual damage was done. It ignored the feeling of my skin being dragged across rough, filthy pavement. 

   When I came to a stop and felt certain that I was mostly fine I opened my eyes to see my friend Jeremy hove into view with a very concerned look on his face. I stayed there for a minute and carefully moved around to make sure I hadn’t broken or dislodged anything. To my astonishment that seemed to be the case, though I was sure that I had still hurt myself pretty seriously, all things considered.  I think that my having been taken completely by surprise helped my luck; that and going full rag doll.  But none of that actually mattered because as soon as I knew I wasn’t going to the hospital I began to worry much more about my bicycle. Jeremy had pulled it away from me and set it aside, so I didn’t know what shape the old girl would be in. 

   I got up and located Judi off to the side of the road. The leather handlebar wraps were pretty torn up on the left side, but I didn’t see anything else really wrong otherwise. The front wheel had a very slight wobble so I’ll have to true that back up.  It was rideable and I was still full of  shock hormones, so I hopped on and finished the ride, albeit a shortened version. I made it back to Jeremy’s with about eight minutes of biochemical pain-dampening left, then it started to kick in. 

We both lost some skin, but mine grows back

   I cleaned up my bloody wounds as best I could and checked out my body in the mirror. I took some ibuprofen and drank a bunch of water and chilled out while Jeremy kindly loaded my bike into his vehicle and drove me home. 

   I woke up in the middle of the night to pee and take another fistful of pills, but I was able to get in and out of bed by myself, so there’s that.  The next morning I woke up feeling like the left half of my body was 25 years older than the right half. But again, I managed to make coffee and take the dog out and feed myself.  I made a large ice pack from a bundle of Mr Freezy ice pops wrapped in a dish towel and that helped a lot.  I will heal and I’ll be fine. I’ll have a bitchin’ scar on my elbow. I’ll definitely be more careful and more mindful when I’m riding around. Constant vigilance!

   In the end the upper left half of my body was bruised and battered, but I was mostly alright. The pain that first day was the worst, but it got noticeably better each morning. I took it really easy since my left side was so much weaker than my right. Today I finally went for a ride around town, just over ten miles, no real issues to speak of. Which is great because tomorrow is looking like perfect bike riding weather. 

This snack doubles as an ice pack…which is whack.

Tandemom!

   My mother flew in from Oklahoma to spend a few days with us before absconding with my son. It’s alright, he’ll be back in THREE WEEKS!  But while she was here I took advantage of a bright and lovely day off work and with the kiddo at Rock (‘n’ Roll) camp to trick my mother into taking an 11 mile ride around town on the tandem.  

   We first went just around the corner for our traditional mother-son pedicures. When we arrived my mom was already worried that she wouldn’t make it since her legs were starting to sing her a song. I asked about where she felt sore and then adjusted the seat height and told her “that should do it”. She looked at me with doubt enough on her face to maybe be called shade, but we left it at that and got our feet did. Afterwards we went across the street to Woodford Food & Bev for a snack, which was great, and some small talk with the host, also great. 


   We went and hopped back on the bike. My mom asked how far to the bakery where I work and I told her three miles. We set off and she immediately started talking about how much her legs weren’t bothering her anymore and how she had been so sure they would feel like jelly all day. We made it halfway around Back Cove and took off down Washington. We stopped at the Gear Hub to show my mom around briefly, then we went on to Standard. 

   I gave my mother the royal tour, and she got to meet nearly the full cast of characters. I verified that the GM is a full two inches taller than my mom, much to everyone’s delight. We grabbed all the bread and pastries we could stuff into my backpack and headed home to let the dog out.  At this point we had done about 8 miles. Then we took the tandem to pick up the kid from Rock camp and the three of us rode home together, his bike having been left there that morning. 

   So in total 11+ miles for my mom, who hasn’t ridden a bike since the mid-80’s, I’m told. Now I have to keep an eye on the Tulsa Craigslist site for potential tandems that my parents could ride together. What could go wrong?!

My first metric century

<DISCLAIMER: I am bad at remembering to take pictures, so they are so few as to be almost nonexistent. But it’s all true, I swear>

   This week I was as invited on a ride with a coworker and some other folks to ride to Kennebunk and back to Portland, a trip that totaled 68 miles. I was excited the whole week leading up to it, but busy too, so the excitement never got out of hand.  When I mentioned that I was planning to do the ride friends and family were flabbergasted. They couldn’t wish me enough luck or remind me sufficiently that I had to be especially careful for cars, hydration, Governer LePage, etc. I was never worried about my legs. I’ve done several 30ish miles rides and none have ever kicked my ass. The first one sent me into a hilarious cramp spiral, but I did a bad job that time and learned some valuable lessons. 

  Even though this was twice as far as my longest ride I knew that it was doable, and I find that riding with a small group makes the miles feel easier somehow. No one was in a hurry. Everyone was nice and pleasant to talk to. There was just enough familiarity between the different riders that one could always drop in or out of a conversation, moving back and forth between the small pods of two or three cyclists. We stopped a couple of times each way to snack, chat, and fill up on water. 


   I had never been on most of the Eastern Trail system that links up southern coastal maine. It’s so picturesque and well maintained. I kept thinking of how fun it will be to come down with the family and ride through the salt marshes in Scarborough and down into Saco Biddeford. Maybe we can visit some friends there before riding back north. The only parts that weren’t woodsy gravel trails were a short stint in south portland and pretty much all of Biddeford. There you had to ride through town, but there were still signs to guide you back to the trails and the roads we took were minimally trafficked. 

   After that we got back on the trail until we met up with the Kennebunk exit on 95, and from there we took the road into town for some much needed food and coffee. Everyone remained in good spirits as we mounted up to head right back the way we’d just come. The return trip went faster as it always seems to do, though it might have been the lengthy discussion of modern poets and poetry I ended up having for over half that trip with my younger, collegiate doppelgänger.  What an experience!

   We ended the ride at the Gear Hub for their Grand Opening Party. The band was playing, the BBQ was…flowing?  The yard sale was in full effect, as was the four square tournament. I left my fellow riders there so I could run home, shower, roll out my legs, gather my family, and finally return in time to see the festivities come to an end. I did pick up a few items from the yard sale bins, and my son did get a new, more legit game of four square going (legit because of the presence of a school child). 

   I ended a longish day of riding my bike by riding my bike home with my son, a trip that was mostly directed into the sunset. But we had our sunglasses. So it was cool. 

The Long and Windy Road

   I took a ride out to Freeport yesterday, then turned around and headed right back. The funny thing is, all the way up Route One I was getting hit with a mild but noticeable headwind, and so when I got to Freeport and saw that I needed to head back in order to deal with some prior obligations I was looking forward to some sort of tailwind pushing me along.  But when I began my return journey I found myself riding into a much stronger headwind. This one was enough to slow me down on a descent, and it didn’t let up the whole time.

None shall pass!!!

   I stopped in Yarmouth for a slice of pizza to refuel. My legs had been feeling less and less willing to keep up the revolutions, and I had made the whole trip to that point on one fried egg, a piece of buttered toast, and two cups of coffee. I knew I was going to be late by then so I contacted people and rescheduled enough things that I could relax and enjoy my lunch in the sunlight. 

   I got back on the bike and after about five minutes of riding and digesting I felt much better able to haul my butt through the shoving, bullying wind. Bridges presented the most challenging sections, but only the Martin Point bridge was bad enough to get me weaving across the bike line in my lowest gear.  I let out a barbaric yawp or two since I so rarely get a reasonable opportunity to do so these days. 

   I eventually made it home with just enough time to let the dog out, “enjoy” a quick visit from my soigneur, Monsieur Le Foam, and then take a short, scorching hot soak before I had to meet someone about a bike. But I was happy to see that all of that exertion didn’t wipe me out. When I got home I felt like I could have kept going much longer if I hadn’t had responsibilities. But since it was my first long ride since last summer it’s probably best that I took it easy. 

Monsieur Le Foam

   I definitely did much better than on my first 25 mile ride. That one ended in double leg cramps that propelled me off the couch and onto the floor where I remained until I was finally able to drag myself down the hall and into the bath tub where I sat punching my thighs until the hot water covered them. It wasn’t my best moment, but luckily I was alone. And also luckily, the action of dragging myself backwards down the hallway rug helped to pull my pants down for me so that I didn’t have to bend my intensely cramped legs to get them off. Ah, memories. 

   I took this ride to scout things out for a near future ride with my son. The last time that we rode, or attempted to ride to Freeport it was autumn and it got way too cold for us about 14 miles in.  Also that time we rode up Route Nine which is not as bike friendly as Route One. Route Nine has many sections where the bike lane disappears and you are left to hug a very scrappy and unsafe few inches of the road while cards whiz past you, sometimes giving you a little leeway. Route One has a bike lane all the way up, I was happy to find.  And it is also significantly less hilly than Route Nine. Although I should mention that they are currently doing construction on a few parts and in those areas it is down to one lane.  They have to stop you in one direction and let traffic continue before you are allowed to go. But the cars were content to let me ride along and no one tried to crowd me out since there were construction people watching. And maybe out of the goodness of their hearts.  So now my son and I just need to pick a nice, wind free day for our adventure to the north.  And I look forward to trying it again by myself on a pleasant afternoon to see how my time compares. It’s not so much that I really care about my average speed, but I do tend to notice it from time to time.

My “New” Tulsa Bike

I found this weird little thing on Tulsa Craigslist, which I peruse sometimes because my folks live there. It said it was a Univega, but there’s no head badge or decals to prove it. The seller didn’t seem to know much about it, and my mother being my mother, she managed to haggle him down to $10. I had been planning to show my dad some basic bicycle repair/maintenance when I visited, and now he and I both had vintage bikes (allegedly both Univegas) to work on side by side. So I took my son to visit the grandparents after Xmas and finally got to get a closer look at this mishmash of delights.

The bike was decked out with a Shimano 600 drivetrain, but the crankset and pedals were more recent than the derailleurs. The shifters, both derailleurs, and the hubs were all arabesque. The crankset was something more modern, though I didn’t get to determine the year while I was there. The brakes and levers were Suntour Superbe, and they were in great condition.

Even though the hubs were a match, the rims were not. After much confusion I managed to determine that the rear wheel was a 700c while the front wheel was 27″. I got new black wall tires in both sizes (eventually), which looked great against the matte black frame. I wish the front wheel had a black rim so I could complete the look. I’ll have to build one up in 700c and bring it with me when I go next time. The brakes didn’t seem to have a problem with the reach.

The saddle was old and busted in spots, but it wasn’t terribly uncomfortable after a ten mile ride.

When I got into town I pulled the bikes out of the shed and cleaned them up a bit. I had packed up my tools, tubes & tires, grease, bearings, etc; everything I would need to do anything that might come up once I got my hands on the bikes. But the bus driver screwed up our luggage at Logan and so I ended up with a very similar looking bag belonging to a man from North Carolina while my bag stayed behind at Logan patiently awaiting my return. So I did what I could with the tools my dad had and didn’t tear the bike down very much at all. I think I even soaked the rear derailleur by just dipping it and the dropout into a bucket of suds. I scrubbed a lot with some brass brushes I bought. I cleaned and lubed all the moving bits.

Then I found a small community bike shop similar to our Gear Hub (http://portlandgearhub.org) called The Tulsa Hub (http://www.tulsahub.org) that was right downtown near the BOK center. I called and spoke with the woman who runs the place, Ren, to ask if I could bring my dad in to show him a few things on his bike and mine, things we couldn’t do without special tools, and she was incredibly helpful and accommodating. I wish I could have met her in person, but unfortunately she wasn’t there for that particular volunteer night. But my dad and I did have fun, and he got to meet some of the guys that work and volunteer there. It was nice to have a chance to experience yet another community bike shop and see how their set up differs from those that I’m used to here in Portland and Biddeford. In the end we got it all done.

It was after this that we had the tire debacle, but once that was sorted out I got the bikes shod and ready to go. I road tuned them, then took mine for a slightly longer ride through the neighborhood. It was cold and windy that day when it hadn’t been previously, so we waited for the next day, our last day in town, before my dad and I took a short ride together.

I ended up waking early and heading out for an 8 mile ride around my old stomping grounds in Owasso. I passed the high school, most of my old houses, a few houses that had belonged to friends. I made a pretty big loop. But at the beginning of things I had to stop near the school to ditch a bulky scarf that I had worn and which I couldn’t carry with me on the bike. I stuffed it into a bush in front of a bank and then continued on my merry way. Once I got home I had my dad get dressed and we rode the mile to get the scarf and the mile back. He’s an older guy and the drop bars and position on either bike made him pretty uncomfortable pretty quickly. We switched halfway, but he was a little bummed since he was planning to start riding more. Luckily, he has another bike that belonged to a friend of his, and that one should work well for him with some smoother tires. But he won’t look as cool as me on my bike. Sorry, dad.

Here’s the funny thing. I didn’t take any pictures of the whole bike, only close ups of the components. So I can’t show you a before and after. But I’ll get to it next time I’m in Tulsa.