Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Riding Tampa

This year, I scheduled a trip down to Tampa, Florida for Christmas with my family.  Upon seeing that the weather forecast for the week or so that I'd be there was for high temperatures in the 70's-80's, I was unable to resist the temptation to rent a bike and get some miles in.  A google search found City Bike in downtown Tampa, who kindly obliged me with a 58cm Jamis Ventura, which was adequate for the task and cost about $160 for the 10 days I'd be there.  They set it up with my pedals, and once I got to my sister's where I was staying, I went to setting the seat and handlebars to their correct positions.  I would rent from them again the next time I'm in the area for an extended period.

My sis's house is actually just north of Tampa, near the Hillsborough/Pasco county line, and as this was my home base, all of my rides in the area were in the north end of Tampa.

Florida is flat.  The first real ride I did that wasn't just exploring the neighborhood was up to San Antonio, which folks assured me was the hilliest terrain around.

This is about as hilly as it gets.
It was a fairly nice ride, and once I was able to escape the 6 lane divided highway arterials that are ubiquitous throughout the area and get onto some nice rural 2 lane road, the scenery was nice and pastoral.

Wide open spaces just south of San Antonio, Florida.
There is even a seminary along the way called St Leo's.  It is telling that the elevation gain on this hilliest of area rides is about as much as the flattest routes around the Seattle area.

The longest ride that I did was along the northern section of the Suncoast Bike trail.  I drove up to the northern end of the trail and started there, as there were storms coming in from the south that day and winds were out of the south at about 15-20 knots.  I much prefer having a tailwind on the way home during a long ride, and given the distance, and strength of the wind, this turned out to be a good decision.

The trail was very sparsely used, I encountered about 5 cyclists over the entire 50 mile route

I also discovered the aptly named Flatwoods Park, which is situated between Bruce B Downs and Morris Bridge roads to the northeast of Tampa proper.  I did a couple of rides here, the first day doing the south end of the loop and using it as a connection to continue south on Morris Bridge road.  On the second day, I took off on a dirt spur that seemed to be on top of a flood control dike.

The surface was hard packed sand.

Miles of gravel grinding goodness amidst solitude.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lighthearted California PSA

After passing a law requiring drivers to provide 3 feet of space when passing a vulnerable road user, California released this lighthearted Public Service Announcement that's well worth the 30 seconds of your attention.

Design Matters

The Economist posted an article today contrasting how different approaches to road design result in drastically divergent outcomes for vulnerable road users.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Riders on the Storm

There was a storm that went through the area on Saturday that prompted the first tornado warning in western Washington since something like 1996.  I rode right through it, as it was between me and home.  On my way south down to Seward Park, I picked up a few sprinkles early on as I skirted the line of clouds slowly moving in from the north.  But after turning around to head back to Ballard, it was clear that dark and ominous cloud line would not be moving out of my way.

When the rain started, it was a heavy rain, much more like a Florida thunderstorm than what we typically get out here.  Then it got heavier.  And turned to hail.  And then it got even heavier.  It was coming down so fast there was an inch of water on the road, not just in the gutters, but across the whole road.  I just put on my rain jacket and kept going.  And within about 10 minutes, I had passed through it and there was bright sunshine.

The transitional seasons of Spring and Fall always make me feel alive.  Sure, summer's great, with day upon day of great riding weather beckoning me to go for a ride.  But the sudden and dramatic changes that happen here on a minute to minute basis in the Fall just fill me with a feeling of being alive.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


We've had such a nice late Fall that I decided to get some late season mountain riding in and climbed up to Paradise from Ashford, located about 5 miles below the Ranger Station.  The climb mostly follows along the Nisqually River drainage, and is steady with a fairly low gradient.  Along the lower half of the climb, I was in mostly heavy mist, but it cleared up to reveal beautiful views as I gained elevation.

View from the top.

I took this one lonely picture from the top.  It's very difficult for me to stop as I'm making my way up the mountain, as I don't like to break my rhythm, the best thing is to just keep going.  Then, on the way down, I often promise myself that I'll stop at specific view points, but seldom can I muster the will to interrupt the descent.

One of the best things about riding to me is the state of getting in the flow, and stopping to take pictures, or even just getting the iPhone out from the jersey pocket seems an unwanted interruption to this mental state.

And the climb, which I have done once before, didn't seem as hard as I remembered it to be.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pondering the Magnitude of the Void

Today, rather than making circles, I took steps and went for a hike. The weather pattern has been cloudy in the lowlands, the marine layer in the valleys. Often, during one of these weather patterns, one can hike up above the clouds and be treated to magnificent views of wildflowers and surrounding peaks, like this.

Today was not one of those days. One never knows, until reaching the top, whether the clouds will be left below. Today, standing on the peak of Mt. Dickerman, I saw nothing but grey mist in every direction, as the mountain dropped away into the mist below. Near the edge of the north face, I could look down and see only grey directly below me.

I didn't take any pictures. There's no way a grey box on a screen can capture the utter groundlessness of being surrounded in this way. But Lao Tzu says it better than I can:

- 4 -

The Tao is empty but inexhaustible.

Eternal, like the void;

it is filled with infinite possibilities.

Infinitely deep, it is the source of all things.

Within it, sharp edges become smooth;

twisted knots loosen;

the sun is softened by a cloud;

the dust settles into place.

It is hidden but always present.

I do not know who gave birth to it.

It seems to be the common ancestor of all,

the mother of all things.

Monday, August 11, 2014


A great article on Flow and some reading suggestions on the subject can be found here, at one of my favorite cycling blogs, Red Kite Prayer.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Two summers ago I was in the midst of one of the worst years of my life, working at a job I disliked, dealing with all manner of expensive legal issues, breaking up with a girlfriend, and most of all, difficulties regarding my relationship with my daughter.  I was miserable.  All I could do to stay sane was ride, and ride I did.

I'm currently doing pretty well by way of comparison, and I've been riding into some decent summer form.  I set a PR on part of Golden Gardens the other day, but not the full segment.  I've been chasing my PR's since that miserable summer when I set them all.  All that emotional baggage I was carrying made me lose a ton of weight, and I was riding lots and just floating up hills.  Every time I look at a PR, it's from that terrible summer.

It's funny to me that those are the times I'm now chasing, that I could look back on a time so craptacular in my life and realize that it wasn't so bad.  There were good, redemptive things that I made happen through simply riding.  Perhaps we can see now the blessings in life that seemed like curses at the time and realize that what seems cursed now will someday be a blessing as well.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


We too often in life and on the ride make a mistake.  On the bike, just a moment of inattention can have painful consequences involving leaving skin on the tarmac, and the same is true of life.  Under such circumstances, we have little choice but to dust ourselves off, get back on the bike, and do what we can to enhance the body's natural recovery.  We know there may be sleepless nights of wounds sticking to sheets and getting up in the morning feeling stiff and sore, but we also know that if we let the natural processes work, we will slowly heal ourselves.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Morris/Hemlock Valley Road

I was up in BC and of course had to do some exploring of the two wheeled pedal variety, and I chanced on this gem of a climb up the Morris and Hemlock Valleys.  This area seems about 90 km from Vancouver, and starts in the Fraser River Valley.

I started my ride just after the Morris Valley road turns off to the north from Highway 7 along the shores of Lake Harrison, which seems to provide hydro power to Vancouver.  The road continues along the lakefront almost indefinitely, if one looks at the map, and it all looks rather remote.

Several KMs into the ride, there is a turnoff to the left to take the Hemlock Valley road up to a ski area.  This is always promising in terms of elevation gain, and the road points immediately skyward from the get go.  It doesn't; however, stay pointed in any one direction for long, and as it twists and switchbacks its way up the drainage, the gradients change sharply and suddenly.

Looking back down toward the Fraser Valley.

As I made more progress, attacking the steeps and recovering somewhat on the shallower sections, the road becomes more gravel and less pavement.

A typical switchback on the route illustrates how the grade is steepest toward the center of the corner.

The climbing did not last.  About 3k up the road, the pavement gave way to gravel of a particularly ball bearing like sort.  I rode some way up it, but turned around to see how it was descending it.  This was scary - too scary for me, and I continued my way back down on the reappearing pavement.

Monday, June 9, 2014

North Cascades Highway, part Deux

I made circles to the top of Washington Pass finally, after riding most of it car free a couple of weeks prior.

Looking down the other side of the pass.  This made me want to continue to Mazama.

Banana break time.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

North Cascades Highway

Being the northernmost pass over the mighty Cascade range and peaking in excess of 5000 feet, the North Cascades Highway closes every Fall and reopens each Spring due to snowfall and avalanche chutes running where the road is cut. When the DOT starts plowing the road in Spring, they keep the gates closed at both sides of the pass and plow up the road, leaving it clear of motorists up to where the crews have cleared.

The parking lot for the Ross Lake Trail, beyond which the gate closes the road to motorists.

At a certain point in the Spring, the legs have enough miles in them and the snow is cleared enough to begin contemplating longer alpine rides.  I've been doing some of the shorter steeper climbs around Seattle where I live, but climbing for more than 20 miles straight is another thing entirely.  The legs started to complain, but the only solution is to keep going and hope that the next time, they will be more accustomed to uphill efforts of this length.

Starting to get up to the snow line.

This is a beautiful and mostly steady climb.  On this spring day, the sun shone, yet it also never really stopped raining.  As I made my way up the grade, it was clear to see where the avalanche zones are located by the rock shaped pock marks in the road.

As I got higher, so did the snow and the views.

I've ridden this pass before, but with vehicular traffic, and it was quite amazing to ride without fears of getting buzzed by cars and RV's.

The end of the road.
I enjoyed riding this route sans autos so much that I checked in on Monday to see if there would be another spring weekend to ride it.  Sadly, the report was that the road would be open to all vehicular traffic again starting Thursday, May 8, but it was lucky for me that I got at least one car free ride up the North Cascades Pass in this year.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


In 2013, I rode 2,936 miles over 189 hours.  My goal for the new year is simply to follow the advice of the prophet Eddy and ride lots.  I opened my account yesterday with a short ride after coming back from visiting family and friends for the holidays.  I know that folks often advocate setting goals that are objectively measurable and achievable, for instance that this year I will ride 3,500 miles.  But I'd rather just ride lots and not worry about the details.