Monday, September 29, 2008

Boing! Boing! SSSSSSSSSS Wobble, Wobble . . . Bingo! We Have A Winner!!!

Just got back from test riding the Lemond again. I have made my decision. 

The Lemond it is. 

I rode from Montlake Cycles over the Montlake Bridge to a grassy hill on the east side of the cut, dropped that hill really fast testing the brakes and feeling the forks (I actually like them).

Got to the bottom of the hill and was going around to climb when all of a sudden the front wheel got really unstable. Flat tire. Doh! I had to walk back to the shop, experience carrying the bike. :-P The folks in the shop were really apologetic, one said that is what you have to expect in cyclocross, and, me, we I just said it was a great opportunity to feel what it was like to do a shoulder carry with this bike. I was really worried that I was going to damage the rim and scratch the bike when the tire flatted though. 

Got a new wheel from another Poprad and I went out again to do the same thing, this time without the flat tire. What a blast bombing the hill, hitting a variety of different surfaces (grass, dirt, wood chips, gravel, blacktop, steel plating, concrete).  I paid attention to the forks and brakes on the descent and did not notice the chatter. Pretty lively ride and I decided to keep the forks. Climbing went well, shifting was crisp as I mashed from a high gear to a low gear but this bike really needs a triple. Then back to the shop. Got in and the person helping me said "Well, what did you think?" "This is the third time I've ridden this and I have come back into the shop with a smile on my face. What do you think that means?"

So then it was time for more questions. 
  • "How much will it cost to put a triple on this bike?"
  • Rack and Fenders?
  • I am also considering the La Cruz what would it cost to build that with a triple?
One of the mechanics is specing all this out for me and I am looking up at some of the other bikes. There is another Poprad. It has fenders, a really cool rack, a triple, and a Chris King Headset. I am looking at it. THAT is exactly what I want In my head I can hear them thinking "Oh, what a poser, probably wants that because it "'looks cool'"—well it does but that is not why (I've been running King Headsets since the late 1980's and even toured the factory in SB and have NEVER had a problem with them, one less thing to worry about). Drool! They also just built up a special order Salsa La Cruz for a customer, also putting a triple on it. Turns out that doing that would actually be more expensive than the Lemond. So.

Time to think. 

A few phone calls later "How much would it cost me to put a triple on the La Cruz?" and my mind was made up. 

The Poprad it is. 

Maybe I'll have it this weekend, just in time for the rain. :-)

Yee Ha!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bike Shopping Foray #4

Recycled Cycles today [Yelp].

Today was one of those really pretty fall days. Had a great eight-miler this morning, a nice hilly course with a neat view off of the Aurora Bridge [MB], went to the Farmer's Market, and then did a little work. Decided to take the bus down to the shop because the Huskies were playing Stanford at home and traffic was likely to be difficult (parking even worse). An amazing amount of purple walking around today (too bad they lost—broken thumbs, concussions, sheesh, how civilized are these fields of friendly strife?). 

Walked in and boy was this shop busy. It took only about 5 minutes to get the attention of a salesperson, Kirsten, and we went to look at what they had:
  • Kona Jake the Snake
  • Surly Cross Check
  • Salsa La Cruz
OK, the Kona is aluminum and I didn't bother with it because I don't want (or like) aluminum frames. As none of the Surly bike were in my size I decided to take the Salsa out for another test spin: this one was a 53 cm bike instead of the 55 I tried the other day. Nice clearance, etc.. 

Headed towards the UW along Boat Street, past Agua Verde and the Medical Center to the Salmon Spawnin Pond, and along the Montlake Cut. There is a grassy hill that is kind of steep with a dirt trail in it. I wanted to feel how this bike handled on the grass and what it was like climbing in the lowest gear. I did have to stand and mash (this would have been easier had I been clipped in) but it wasn't too hard. Got to the top in short order, turned around and bombed down the hill, going over the trail and onto the grass as fast as I could. The bike handled very well and the size was actually better than the 55 cm I tried the other day. Paid attention to the handle bars too and decided that I am not really a fan. The drop actually felt a little small for my hands but the bars themselves were wide enough to torque back and forth. Putting a triple on this would be a bit of chore: new front derailleur and possibly a new bottom bracket (which also means cranks too). Might raise the price well beyond list. 

Let's just say that I was more impressed with this bike during this ride than I was the first time around. It could be because I have spent the week riding cross bikes and have a sense of what to expect. Blasting down that hill was just fun!

Not much else to tell about this trip, except that I had a fun time riding the bus back home. Such a nice day to people watch and NOT drive. 

Ballet tonight, PNB's "All Tharp" with two world premier pieces. I am excited.

Thank you MagnusReputo

Re: Lemond Poprad

You read my mind! 

Can't wait to see what turns up.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bike Shopping Foray #3

Turned out to be a beautiful day, mid-sixties, sunny and warm. Perfect afternoon to go test some bikes. 

Fetched up at Montlake Bicycle Shop [Yelp]. Not too crowded when I got in but all of the mechanics and sales staff were with people so I looked around a for a while and then went to wait by the front counter. Took a bit but then Darren got free and asked me what I needed. I told him that I wanted to look at Cross Bikes. He led me over to two Bianchis, the Volpe (a bike AW has been urging me to try) and the Cross Concept, and also suggested a Lemond. Both the Lemond and the Volpe are steel bikes and so I decided to forgo the Cross Concept because it is carbon and $2K. I did ask why companies were mixing drive train components and Darren told me that it was a marketing thing. To keep the price down they put the highest level component on the rear derailleur because that is where people look for the label not the front derailleur and the shifters. 

Tested both bikes on some hills in the Montlake neighborhood going up and down with some rough and twisting roads. 

Bianchi Volpe [Reviews]

Tested a 55 cm frame and found the handling to be rather crisp although the top tube was a bit short for my tastes and the bars were too narrow (easily changed). The triple ring set-up was nice, especially on the steep hills. Nice price too, $950 (although prices online seem a little lower). 

It did not wow me (sorry AW) though and the shifting seemed quite slow and sloppy. Stoppers seemed fine coming down a very long and steep hill but there was some chatter. Changing out components might just not be worth it.  

Ever gotten on a bike, started rolling, and realized that it felt natural? 

This was it for me. 

This was a bike that I felt like I could trust from the get-go and one that I would not have to "get used to." It climbed, accelerated, and cornered very well and with confidence. I even did some curb hopping and cutting through narrow passages. The gearing seemed quite nice even though it lacks a triple. 

Having said that, however, there are some things that give me pause:
  1. the forks are carbon fiber, Bontrager Switchblade Elite Carbon, and this gives me some pause. I could feel some chatter vibration during the braking test down the long hill. Would these last given the likely pounding they are going to receive? Would switching them out for a steel fork be a good idea?
  2. the wheels have a "single cross lacing" pattern/system. It looks really cool but I am 190-195. How durable are they likely to be?
  3. rear brake cable routing could possibly get clogged with dirt (see Scott Campbell's review)
  4. no rack eyelets or fender mounts (not that I really like that idea actually)
  5. there are three 2007 models available but, as far as I could tell, no 2008's and are the '09's are on their way. Why the surplus?
  6. ok, I know the why of the surplus now. The question now becomes, will Trek actually stand behind a bike they manufactured even though they no longer have an official relationship?

I have to say that the Lemond is the clear leader (even though it is not orange or yellow) but I have more bikes to ride and want to go back and test this one as well. The Salsa is nice but I did not have that instant comfort on it. Perhaps I would sense this if I ride it again. We'll see. 

Any comments on these questions?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bike Shopping Foray #2

Second foray into bike shopping land this afternoon. 

Counterbalance Bikes, at the old Ti Cycles location on the Burke Gilman, [Yelp] where I rode two bikes and had a wonderful conversations with Glenn, someone who actually races cyclocross. They carry the Salsa La Cruz and we spent some time talking about that bike as well.  He would not race the La Cruz but thinks they are a nice bike (heavy, big, etc..) but nice for dinking around. I did also ask the "sand question" and it seems that cross bikes can handle them with larger tires. It is a technique issue, keep traction on the rear and let the front float. He seemed surprised that I would consider a 58 cm frame but I like an open cockpit and he could see that. He also suggested that I look more closely at Kona bikes, the Jake the Snake (now there is a name, but it is aluminum and carbon). 

So what did I try?

This is a sweet bike. Snappy, stiff, light and responsive. Accelerates quickly. I was able to climb a hill and discovered that the low gears did take some work (I am too used to MTB gearing) but it still climbed well and felt quite stable on the descent (rainy of course). There is a very nice flat spot on the top tube that fits well on the shoulder, a nice touch. Components were mid-to upper Shimano, not too shabby (although the website lists Tiagra, did they change the specs?). Plus, GVB, it has yellow on it (or is that orange). 

It is an aluminum and carbon frame which, frankly scares me off. I am not a small rider (190-195 lbs) and I would be the guy to break it. There is something reassuringly durable about a steel frame even though there is a weight penalty. Putting a rack on this one is doable I guess but this one would be for racing. 

The Masi seemed a little less inspiring to me than the Jamis. Don't get me wrong, it was a nice ride but it didn't accelerate or climb as easily and I found the gear hard on the ascent. The bike is cheaper, primarily because of the component set that they chose (Tiagra) and I am going to stay away from that. The shifters felt a bit cheesy and, frankly, I don't need little windows with red indicators telling me where my gear is. 

Of the two, what would I buy? The Jamis

Between the Jamis and the Salsa? This is difficult.

What would you do?  

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bike Shopping Foray #1

First foray into bike shopping this afternoon. 

A little rain, enough to make traction interesting. 

Salsa La Cruz: I really like this bike but it certainly is an adjustment. The ride is stiffer than I am used to, the Gecko was stiff but in a different way that is hard to describe. Very responsive. Rode it twice and was really comfortable once I got used to it. The Shimano  105 Dual Control Levers were really nice[Salsa Specs] and the disk brakes were very nice and handled the stopping on the wet pretty well. What kinds of maintenance would have to be done on these? This bike only take a double chain ring but is geared so that hill climbing might actually be easier than with a triple ring while still allowing for speed. Can handle racks and fenders and wider 700c tires. Shifting needed to be adjusted. How would this bike do on sand and rocks like what happens here? The bike I rode is labeled a 55" but is actually a 58" at the head tube (how much clearance should I have again?).  

Surly Long Haul Trucker: A touring bike and it felt pretty forgiving and I could swoop pretty comfortably although I did note some sloppiness in this. Not so fast and I hated the bar-end shifters which seem to be the only option on this bike unless I want to change them out. Shifting was, however, very crisp. Lots of attachment points.  I did notice some bottom-bracket flex when cranking. No option for disk brakes. Comes with a triple crank. How would this bike do bombing a trail? 

Asked the manager, Kathleen, what other bikes like the Salsa I ought to look at and what other shops should I visit. She suggested the Jamis, Bianchi, and Masi and that I should visit Second Ascent, Montlake Cycles, and Recycled Cycles


One of my colleagues has a friend who rides a Surly LHT. This is his assessment of the bike:
Love it.
Very stable.
Very Heavy.
Very Cheap for what it is.

One caution re: the note below - the LHT is a dedicated touring bike - I
wouldn't consider it a cyclocross bike... Try the crosscheck if that's the
real intent - or maybe a Soma
Thanks FriendofColleague!


Monday, September 22, 2008

First Day of Fall

The autumnal equinox: Monday, September 22, 2008, at 11:44:16 EDT







Sunday, September 21, 2008

Gecko's Last Ride . . .

Today I said farewell to an old friend. Gecko my trusty mountain bike of 18 years is no more (actually, what remains is sitting forlornly in my garage). 

What happened?

Today was a cross training day for me and I decided a light and easy ride north on the BG Trail to Bothell and back would be just the ticket. A nice way of ending the summer before buckling down for yet more syllabus and Blackboard classroom prep. So off I went.

Pretty uneventful ride actually. It rained all day yesterday and everything was wet. Not many people out—runners and walkers with some bikers—and a nice stiff headwind going North. Most of the construction on the trail out between Kenmore and Bothell is complete with the addition of a nice new underpass (there are now two) and nice, smooth, and sticky Blacktop (like riding through molasses actually). You can now buy the Architectural Mistake for $699950 if you've a mind to. There was someone sleeping in a sleeping bag in the tunnel just past the Wayne Golf Course, he did not stir as I buzzed by. 

There is a fork right after the tunnel where you can go left onto the BG trail that runs along the river or straight over the river and then up from the bank. I chose the latter and kept going getting a good glimpse of Blyth Park. I had to cut down to the main trail after a bit and headed down hill over some grass. 

After a little bit on the BG my rear started wobbling and the chain started skipping. Couldn't see anything wrong and shifting didn't seem to help, although that was working, so I stopped and checked the wheel and tire. The tire seemed a little soft so I pulled my mud-encrusted pump out of its position (this took some doing) and aired up. The axle was fine too and the wheel was centered in the frame. Hmm. It wasn't until I set the bike down and took a step back that I saw this:

I couldn't believe it. One of the chain stays had simply snapped and I was 11 miles from home. Aw Nuts! But it was in Bothell and I had a cell phone so I called home and M came out to get me. Lucky really. This could have been much worse and happened while dropping Iron Horse at high speed a while ago OR I could have been way out backabeyond

I hung out with the chickens for a bit, at least until they told me I had to get moving:

(snobby birds those chickens, although I did notice they were hanging out with rabbits)

Had arranged to meet M at a shopping center with the Ivars and an Indian Restaurant so I walked my bike back and over to "The Park at Bothell Landing."   Chatted with people along the way, for some reason both they and I were in jovial moods, petting some dogs, and scared at least on dog as I scritched over the foot bridge in my cleats. Got pretty hungry too. 

There is a European Deli in the shopping center and it was the only place that was open, even the coffee house was closed (a coffee house closed on a Sunday morning?). The guy running the store was some kind of Eastern European and when I asked for a pastry he immediately said we have some fresh Piroshky. Yumm. Chicken Piroshky and a bottle of Kubus, a Polish mixed fruit and vegetable drink (it was pretty interesting actually). 

Went out into the parking lot next to Main and 522 so that I could be visible enough for M and hung out in the "Town and Gown Loop" sitting area. Lots of people looking at me, nobody asked if I needed help. Good thing it wasn't raining. :-)

I cannot tell you how many miles, hills, single-tracks, and crashes (it is me after all) this bike has carried me through. The Gecko Genesis was one of the first Elevated Chain Stay bikes and was designed particularly as a hill climber with high clearance under the bottom bracket for the great many rocks on the back country trails. With its original forks installed I could pop the front up simply by flicking my wrists. Putting heavy Answer Shocks on only slightly dampened this. It was rigged for aggressive riding too: drooping Answer bars (black of course) with a stem that put me way out over the front wheel and as much titanium as I could afford. All-in-all, a big, heavy, well-balanced bike that I actually enjoyed riding more than the Fat Chance that I bought from a friend. Oh, and it had a wicked paint job too: Dark Blue/Black with White splatters and Smoke that you could not see. It spent a lot of time dirty in SB but had not seen much use until the last couple of years up here in the PacNW (the older and busier I got the less inclined I was to being harum scarum). Indeed, a couple of years ago I took it into Ti Cycles (now closed) for an overhaul and the mechanic who checked me in said it was a museum piece (not any more I fear) and suggested some updates (a shorter stem and riser bars because nobody rides in "attack" position anymore, it is too uncomfortable). 

I doubt I'll find anything quite like it and I'd really like to fix it but the steel around the break would always be weak. Still, I've had 18 very good years. 

As I get older and more distant from my time in Santa Barbara these links fade and fall away—my Adventure Programs T-Shirts are now all faded and really only fit for yard work. I am feeling a little sad about all this, not because a piece of technology has now worn out but because this bike is/was a link to my younger self. Perhaps it captured and held my soul. 

But now it is time to look for something else. Maybe a Cross Bike?


PS. Thanks to all my friends who have kindly offered me loaner bikes. You understand. 

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My Very Own Adjustment Run

This morning I had my very own "Adjustment Run" as PT has so aptly put it. You know, a run where you have to get used to the fact that the seasons are changing, transitioning from the magic of summer (a few days of it actually) into the general dreariness of the fall and winter here at 47.45 N 122.30 W. I can already tell that this is going to be a hard winter for me. My neighbor, ShortWaveRadioMan, was telling me a few weeks ago that the lack of sunspot activity might mean we have a colder and wetter winter (this was when I learned about the Maunder Minimum). He told me this as we were sitting on his stoop, in the sun, waiting for the UPS truck to arrive. I really hope he is wrong. :-)

I became aware of heavy rain about 0600 and thought to myself "I really should get up and out there." Listening to the increasing intensity of the rain I thought "Nah!" I am usually not this squeamish but the thought of running out there and feeling drops of rain hitting my head and then slowly running down my neck was not doing it for me. So I turned on the light and finished reading Baker's The Graveyard Game. Even the dog did not want to get up this morning.  

Kitted up just after 1000 and headed out the door at 1030. It wasn't raining but it started up once I got past the point of no return, about .25 miles down a hill. I just kept going getting wetter and wetter, drop-by-drop. Six to Eight easy miles today, that is what Coach said. 

My initial thought was to head to Cougar but I am SO behind prepping for next weeks follies at the Learning Factory that a drive out the mountains (OK, it is not really that far) was not an option. I decided at the last minute to run from the neighborhood down to and around Green Lake, eight miles of concrete and dirt track mixed. A pretty run too, even in the rain. Ravenna  Boulevard is one of those signature Olmstead constructions that just seem so peaceful inviting (even if they run through the heart of the UW's Greek Row as another example does). J was having a blast. The water seems to unmask or renew all kinds of smells and it was all I could do to keep her from stopping to sniff and mark every few feet. 

Lots of people out today as well. The cars sounded so much louder as they rushed through the water. I was most surprised to see as many runners out as I did. J and I were getting muddier and muddier with each step and her chest, stomach, and legs were black with grit. It was nice to see her having as much fun as she was. I was having a great time too. Moving well, enjoying the air, and exchanging greetings with oncoming runners (Note to skinny brunette wearing all the requisite distance running paraphernalia who gave me, or was it J, the most brilliant smile at the corner of 50th and GL Way: "Thanks. You helped make this a great run. Hope yours was fantastic."

Wait a minute! I was moving well? When was the last time that happened?

Those of you reading this blog regularly probably know that I've not been running so well lately. This summer's exertions really seem to have taken a lot out of me. Perhaps you can imagine my surprise (or relate to it) at learning that, in fact, my hips, quads, and glutes were all weak. As a consequence, I have not been moving well and, in fact, barely moving at all after the Cougar 13.1 beat the #@$% out of me (found out the other day that I was not alone). 

What happened?

Every time I get injured I start thinking about my body as a system rather than as a set of isolated muscle groups or parts. This time has not been an exception. What is different is that I have actually taken action in three ways: changing my posture, following through on PT, and actually seeking to understand and sense the ways in which my body moves as an interconnected system. It was in service of this last action that I started working with a Feldenkrais practitioner. 

Last night, DW and I attended a Awareness Through Movement  given by CL. Basically this was three hours of rolling around that felt really odd by the end. Feldenkrais is all about movement or rather recovering the ability to move. As near as I can understand it this is all about sensitizing yourself to your movement habits (how you roll over for example) and exploring other ways of accomplishing a given movement. The purpose is to recover the body's and mind's ability to move in any direction (think about how cats react), especially if you are about to be attacked by a Smilodon

Let's just say that I left this feeling really odd but also oddly balanced and this really manifested itself during the run. I could feel the different ways that I was moving and could really tell when what I was doing changed. For example, I have been told by another PT specialist I am working with that I run with my calf muscles instead of the whole leg. This makes sense if you look at video of me leaving from a Ragnar Exchange (thanks PT):

See that the center of action is actually so low?

Anyway, back to this story. This turned out to be an 8 mile run, my longest since the Cougar 13 I could actually feel the moment when my body began to tire shifted back into its old habits, over-relying on the hamstrings and calves, and adjust accordingly. Wonderful feeling actually and I look forward to finding out where Feldenkrais is going to take me. 

Other adjustments were not so fun or as inspiring. 

Did I mention that it was raining? Well it was. A lot. I was pretty soaked by the time I got home. Nice stretch and then I hit the shower. 


Ah, I had forgotten Embarrassing Running Problem #7: Sore or Bloody Nipples

No blood, just a massive stinging pain on my nipples that only slowly receded only to start up again once water hit them. Then, and only then, did they become sore. 

Yep, it is all wet again. Adjustment #2: Better remember the Body Glide . . .  :-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I had a lesson in invisibility last night. 

I was coming home late from the Learning Factory and decided to stop to pick up some things at my local Puget Sound-based consumer cooperative grocery store for some comestibles. 

There is a Food Bank bin next to the front door of the store and as I passed through it I noticed someone digging through it. Upon closer examination I realized that this man was homeless—ripped running shorts, no shoes and beat-up feet, wild and unkempt hair. 

People entering and leaving the store looked right at him, then right through him, and then around at everybody else as if somehow sharing a secret. I went into the store and did my shopping. It took 10 minutes or so.

The homeless man was still methodically digging through the bin as I got into the checkout line. I watched him and decided to get him a hamburger from the hot case. 

On my way out I stopped, pulled out the burger, and asked "Sir, would you like a hamburger?" He paused imperceptibly and then kept on digging. I asked again. He began digging harder and then simply packed up his things and hurried away leaving me with the burger. 

The shoe was on the other foot. 

I became the invisible one in a nation that seems to have accepted mass homelessness as a feature of the environment. 

Was his response his way of taking back some power or an expression of embarrassment over this charity? Perhaps he was surprised that someone "saw" him or thought I was yelling at him or about to get him in trouble. Maybe it was just "pay back"?

I'll probably never know . . .

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Old Trail Shoes

"Your shoes are all dusty!"

So said M this morning as she espied my trail shoes, covered in a fine layer of dust and lying carelessly next to the back door. They looked tired, happily tired like I am. 

These faithful companions have carried me up and down mountains, through streams, ridden easily over glass and nails, and protected me from all those rocks and roots lying in wait for my unsuspecting feet. They fit well, like a old pair of shoes, and yet their shiny red spirit vibrates through the layer of dust and the random flecks of mud and sand. 

Yes, we've shared a lot. Will I be wistful when they are done?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


"Be careful as you go on the 4. Tourists stop in the middle of the road to look at bears and you can't see around the curves."

With that suggestion from To, the proprietor of our beach shack sent us on our way. 

A splendid day for a drive back from the semi-wilds of BC to Seattle's busyness. 274.2 miles (449 km) as the crow flies. 

We left just after 11:00 and it took us 1.5 hours drive the 80 or so miles to Port Alberni and then about an hour to get to the Duke Point Ferry Terminal for the 3:15 sailing on the Coastal Inspiration

Guess what? No bears. 

Frankly, I am kind of disappointed about that. Not that I would have liked to rammed my car up someone's tailpipe, but it would have been nice to see some of the other denizens of the forest out there doing whatever it is that they do (fishing, gathering berries, digging through trash, mauling unsuspecting tourists who stop in the middle of the road to take pictures, etc.). 

I highly recommend dawdling on the 4 if you can. It is an incredibly pretty drive with some startling vistas, especially along Kennedy Lake going up towards Clayoquot Plateau Park. Snow was still in evidence. We would have done so had we not had to make the ferry. 

Here are some other random observations from the day:
  • It is really nice to have friendships strong enough to sustain the pleasure of company for a week with humor and naturalness. Thanks R and D. 
  • Never attempt to drive long distances on nothing but a bowl of hot cereal and some tea, especially after running for three miles (and not very well). I was starving
  • Every other vehicle in Port Alberni seems to be a large pick-up truck. Evidence? 8 or 9 of them got on the road as we were coming along. Judging from the layout of the area though, these are trucks that are used for their designed intent
  • The pretzels in the snack shop at Duke Point were, as M put it, a little scary looking, the cookie, however, was not so bad (I cannot bring myself to eat a Nanaimo Bar though. Can someone explain the attraction?)
  • Bored sullen teenagers working in snack shops are the same world over. Texting is more important than helping customers and they let you know it (especially if you cast audible aspersions about their pretzels albeit sotto vocce)
  • BC Ferries new Coastal Class boats are amazingly cool—well-appointed, comfortable, clean (they actually get cleaned), fast, and everything else you'd want in ferry. BC Ferries has its problems but both M and I have serious ferry envy on behalf of the State of Washington
  • Orcas are amazing to watch. We saw at least 4 cruising on the surface between .75 to 1 miles away from the boat. Everyone but the woman yakking on her cellphone about being "dripping with gold at the moment" (gag!) stopped what they were doing and just looked. You might think this strange but in all my time bobbing around in a kayak in the area this is the first time I've actually seen Orcas. Unmistakable and cool. Do it again!
  • Starbucks Hot Chocolate from a machine is nothing to write home about
  • "I heard you were dead." is a very cool way to start a novel
  • I always pick the wrong line at the border crossing, always. For every one car going through our lane, 6 or 7 were going through the other
  • What is it about border guards that make me lose my ability to pronounce simple phrases like "Chesterman Beach B&B"? Actually, can you do that fast?
  • It felt so very odd, even unnatural to be in "heavy" traffic on the I-5 starting at about the Skagit Valley. Yes were were traveling at 75 mph (120 kph) but it was so damn crowded and then there was the guy with a red passport but driving an silver Acura SUV with Nevada plates that started driving erratically just north of Lynnwood (yeah, you buddy). In two weeks I'll have to be driving in the thick of this every day. Nuts.
  • David Sedaris's "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" is a remarkably nutty way of passing the time flying down the freeway (thanks PT). This man is truly screwed up, no interesting, no funny, no ironic, no screwed, up no observant, no . . . 
  • You would think that pets, deprived of their owner's affections and attention for a week or so, would be extremely happy to see their return. What does it say when the CATS are happier and more affectionate than the dog? Yep, our dog is actually mad at us and wanted to go home with the house sitter. (!?!?!?) It has been at least two hours and she still does not want to be in the same room with us. Tomorrow should take care of it. She doesn't know it yet, but we are going running
  • I did not immediately want a cheese burger when I got back into the country. Pizza? Now that is another story. MMM. Pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, black olives, green peppers and onions over mozzarella, tomato sauce and spices. Heaven in a box but it is going to mean some miles under my feet.
  • Though I don't want to, I am going to have to immerse myself in the cesspool that has become the campaign if only to help guide my students through the putrescence we like to call political discourse. I wish this country would be something other than adolescent for a change (Oh wait, what an elitist statement to make!)
  • Six days remaining of Summer 2008 and then it is the return to the assembly line at the Learning Factory. Don't like to think of US Undergraduate Education in such a way? Tough. "Oh Captain, My Captain!"
  • Everything seems so quiet without the sounds of the beach . . . but this is not necessarily a good thing
Anyone care to lay odds on how long our house is going to stay clean? 

Oh, and this is where I got the map. 

Monday, September 8, 2008

Last Day on Tofino Time

Just returned from a couple of hours sitting at Cafe Vincente, reading Wolf's Proust and the Squid, drinking hot chocolate, nibbling on a muffin, watching the world go by, and being amused at the crows that would come within three feet of me and then squawk for my attention (Hey! You! In the orange shirt. Can't you see we would love some of that muffin you have). Rode a communal beach cruiser from the B&B into town and back. This was fun although the seats on these things are not the most comfortable. Took a bike tour of town too and ended up going up a hill that ultimately went to nowhere that I could see.  

Some random thoughts while sitting there:

  • You can only wear black and or gray if you are a surfer here, none of those bright colors often associated with surf culture. Board shorts, funky glasses, skate boards, bikes with board racks are just fine but the colors are muted. I wonder if that is just a stoic BC thing or . . .
  • I was the ONLY person in town wearing anything orange
  • Tofino's local population is more and more evident now that the tourist season is passing
  • I haven't heard the term "Phelpsian" for quite some time and I am glad of it despite the constant, and snotty,  reminders that language changes. I wonder when this word, like "Back in the day", will turn up in one of my student's papers 
  • Watching people learning how to surf is pretty fun, taking a surfing lesson would be even more fun. Next time. This trip I've just been focused on recharging my batteries
  • Running on the beach is one of the most enjoyable things a person can do, but you have to be careful to not sand the skin off your feet as yours truly did yesterday
  • There are so many surf schools here that graduates of the new Surfing degree program (business management with a surfing focus) ought to have plenty of time getting internships and opportunities for practica
  • I have never seen as many termites flying around as I have this week. They do fly but it is more of a wobble and their wings are so floppy that when they land the wings themselves end up in several different directions at once (they have four wings that I can count)
  • Canadians really do say "fer sure", "oot and aboot", and "OHkay". I knew this but have never really been around these speech mannerisms and accents when they have been so undiluted by "big citiness". This is all very interesting
  • When did "correct" become "krecked" in speech? Now there is an US speech mannerism worthy of at least a small cringe (along with "Phelpsian" methinks)
  • Reading weeks are wonderful restoratives for the soul and also curiosity and, having just had one, I understand how special they are
  • Wellington Boots and very short, short skirts make an interesting fashion statement
  • Some roads actually do lead to nowhere (or at least nowhere special) and they tend to be covered in rocks

It is our last day in Tofino and what a bittersweet thing that is. Having to speed up to "regular world" time with all of its artificial rhythms is going to take some getting used to. I awoke naturally at 4 this morning and, not ready to get out of bed, simply listened to the waves hitting the beach for the next 3 hours. Have you ever tried breathing in time to the sound of the waves?

I think I'll have time for one more BBQ, a walk on the beach, and one last run in the morning before starting the trek back to responsibility . . .

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Woodward's The War Within: Doubt, Distrust, Delay

This series of articles is drawn from Bob Woodward's "The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008." Woodward, an associate editor of The Washington Post, interviewed more than 150 people, including the president's national security team, senior deputies and key players responsible for intelligence, diplomatic and military operations in the Iraq war. Other officials with firsthand knowledge of meetings, documents and events -- employed at various levels of the White House, the departments of Defense and State and the intelligence community -- also served as primary sources.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Of Sunsets, Reading, and Running

The surfers were carrying brightly colored Popsicle sticks that wobbled towards the evening's dying surf.

Shorebirds were feeding, alighting for a few minutes before noisily taking off in perfectly coordinated formations for the next choice spot, gulls were returning to land from their daily exertions, a lone Osprey was making its way back from hunting around Frank Island, and in the distance an Eagle (huge even at this distance) disappeared over the mountain.

The tide was out revealing all kinds of wonderful shells, interesting patterns on the beach, and a dead sea star.

The occasional dog ambled by, exhausted by the day's exertions but happy to be out with their packs for one last romp.

The day ended with a brilliant orange ball that rapidly disappeared into the blue of the sea. We all walked into the sunset and watched as the oranges, pinks, and purples faded into that peculiar pastel gray dusk of the sea side.

What a day!

M and I got up early-ish and went for a foggy walk on the beach. The plan was to head out to the Tofino Farmer's market to get some zucchini for dinner but when we got there we found that there was no produce to be had. Arts, crafts, photographs, and Pirogies, yes. We walked around town a bit, got some bread and muffins at Common Loaf. Just as we were leaving Tofino proper the fog started to clear in the mountains and islands to the north and it looked like we might be able to get down to Ucluelet to hike a particularly scenic trail. No dice, though, as the fog had yet to recede from the shore areas and a check of a web-cam in Ucluelet showed similar conditions there.

Instead I spent the bulk of the afternoon racing through two books: Murikami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and Zahab's Running For My Life. Memoirs are not really my thing but these two looked quite interesting to me in the mad rush to buy books for this trip. Murakami presents the parallels between writing and distance running and explores how each activity can, and does, inform each other (at least for him). This work is also a meditation on learning, self-discovery, and aging that is quite insightful—especially the notion of acceptance. He writes:

My muscles can be as stubborn as—or more stubborn than—I am. They remember things and endure, and to some extent they improve. But they never compromise. They don't give up. This is my body, with all its limits and quirks. Just as with my face, even if I don't like it it's the only one I get, so I've got to make do. As I've grown older, I've naturally come to terms with this. You open the fridge and can make a nice—actually even a pretty smart—meal with the leftovers. All that's left is an apple, an onion, cheese, and eggs, but you don't complain. You make do with what you have. As you age you learn even to be happy with what you have. That's one of the few good points of growing older. [86]

This passage especially resonated with me given the struggle I have been having of late to recover from this wonderfully hard summer of running and racing. Murikami seems a poetical, pragmatical optimist as both a writer and as a runner.

Zahab's book is a VERY quick read that starts off with the predictable "My life was screwed up and . . ." recitation (See Karnazes story and, to a large extent, Murikami as well). As Zahab discovers his own talents, passion, and gifts as he treats the reader to a rapid succession of races that are possible impossibilities and shows us both his failings and his successes without undue celebration or self-pity. Along the way he has something of a social awakening that has resulted in his association with Matt Damon's "H20 Africa" project (alluded to but not discussed in the book).

One obvious question of runners arises in both books. Is running simply the substitution of a new addiction for older vices. Neither of them falls into that trap and takes on the subject of addiction head on. Zahab writes, "As far as running being an addiction, well who knows? Maybe it is. I love running. I think about it all the time. I love pushing myself to the limit and seeing what my body can do. If I've had a stressful day, I almost always turn to running to relieve some of that stress." [117] Murikami also suggests that running can balance one's life:

To deal with something unhealthy, a person needs to be as healthy as possible. That's my motto. In other words, an unhealthy soul requires a healthy body. This might sound paradoxical, but it's something I've felt keenly about ever since I became a professional writer. The healthy and the unhealthy are not necessarily at opposite ends of the spectrum. They don't stand in opposition to one another, but rather complement each other, and in some cases even band together. Sure, many people who are on a healthy track in life think only of good health, while those who are getting unhealthy think only of that. But if you follow this sort of one-sided view, your life won't be fruitful. [98]

Like Murikami and Zahab both, I have a personal sense of this and I am not running from anything (as the old question goes) but simply running towards something.

What that is I don't quite know yet. Could it be a balanced life?

It is as mysterious and as wonderful as a sunset.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ookie has a cousin

Dear The Colleague,

One of Ookie's cousins was thinking of you today too and says "Happy Birthday!"

Seems he-she-it is having something of a birthday munch too . . .

Thursday, September 4, 2008


A low key day here in Tofino. 

I awoke to fog and chill and sat shivering in the sun room watching the mist come in and go out. The sun was trying to burn through. A check of the forecast showed that the warmth was going to come in a day later. Today was supposed to be in the 70's but we only made it into the low 60's. 

Spent some time after breakfast working, contacting organizations to set up Service Learning opportunities for my students and then composing a letter of welcome for the students in my Honors American Government section (some of whom may not actually know that they are in an advanced section). Checked on my enrollments too, they are quite strong. 

After lunch and more work, D and I went into Tofino for some supplies. He is going to make pumpkin pie and we needed some other things. Took the opportunity to walk around the town and to sit and sip hot chocolate at Cafe Vincente. The summer season is closing and the town seemed fairly empty in the way that summer resorts often do. A little tired and anticipating something of a winter's nap. It did not seem like there were many people out and even the skate park was empty (an unusual occurrence according to D). 

I decided to go for a walk on the beach after we got home. M had been out on the beach reading didn't want to go as she was trying to warm up. I kicked off my shoes and headed out to feel the sand between my toes. 

The sun was out by now and the tide, just past its high point for the afternoon,  was beginning to recede. There were lots of people out on the beach, plenty of dogs chasing balls and otherwise gamboling around, and a few surfers making the best of the ever smaller sets of waves. The water was warmish and clear and I just wandered around looking at the patterns in the sand and the reflections on the water. 

As I went along I started to notice smaller things. I took a step and was alarmed to see a small black thing dart out from under my foot, jet off ahead of me, and then disappear. It looked like a small gardening spade. I took another step and it happened again. Another little black spade jetted off in front of me and disappeared. I banished the thought of sting rays (even baby ones) from my mind and kept on going. Can't tell you what kind of fish it was. 

Next I saw all kinds of shadows on the bottom being cast by "Beach Hoppers" or "Water Fleas" swimming at the surface. I stopped and one alighted on my toe and stayed there until I started moving again. It tickled but I wonder if it was munching on my skin. 

It was dog walking time and there were plenty of them in evidence, chasing balls into surf that was most recently inhabited by surfers. Their joy reminded me that I miss my own dog (she is, I have been informed, having lots of fun chasing a young  "Swissy"). 

Spent over an hour out there walking, taking pictures, feeling the sun, sand, and wind, enjoying the solitude and feel of the sand and water between my toes, and making footprints in the sand. 

Dinner at Sobo. The "Woodstone Oven Roasted Duck Confit Pizza" washed down with a Hermann's Dark Lager was mighty tasty and the Key Lime pie had just the right limey intensity to counterpoint the gamey sweetness of the pizza. Good stuff and if you ever get up here be sure to try it out. D enjoyed his Hemp Encrusted Chicken with gusto. R had a wonderful chowder and split a shrimp pizza with M who also had an oyster tostada. 

All-in-all, not much activity today. A perfect vacation day. 

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll begin by running  . . . but now it is time to read.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


I love being on the beach, especially foggy beaches when the sun is doing its best to burn its way through. They are places of cultural meaning—peril and pleasure, solitude and companionship, romance and heartbreak and, above all, mystery—and function as transitional spaces—between the wilds of the sea and the safety of the land—in which the "permanence" of civilization is eroded by the permanent "impermanence" of the ocean. 

None of this was on my mind as I headed out to run this morning but, as with so much in my life, what I am experiencing in the moment takes on greater meaning in the performance. Is this a function of getting old or simply of slowing down to enjoy (being a "Human Being" rather than simply a "Human Doing"). 

After a wonderful night's sleep, it is truly quiet here (no cars, random car alarms, cats playing or dogs barking to disturb), I got kitted up and headed out to the beach, a few steps from the deck. It was foggy with a good quarter-mile of visibility and the tide was so far out that there was plenty of running room. What few people there were looked tiny in the distance. 

I started running down coast towards a headland we explored last night, followed the contours of the rocks and had some fun going in and out of sea caves, and picked up a rather large, mostly intact, Sand Dollar to give to M. Ran back around and dropped the dollar off and then headed up coast towards the rather upscale Wickaninnish Inn. As I went I noticed so many different people and dog tracks, some drawings in the sand, a large snail and a sea kayaker, and a kelp sculpture (a piece of driftwood served as a central post with long pieces of kelp strung out from the center in a wheel pattern. This installation is hard to describe and I'll try to get a picture, of course IF it is still there after the tide comes in.  As I ran past all this I realized that the tide would erase all this evidence leaving a fresh canvas upon which all the dogs, the people, sand artists, and the sea can write anew. 

And how did the run itself go? Well.

For the first time in a couple of months I actually felt like I had some pep and could accelerate if I wanted to and the hip and knee all felt pretty good. I managed 3.32 mile or so and even though my HR is still up there I did not feel at all like I was struggling. Pace? Overall 10:06 but with some significant time feeling like I was running faster. The road back is going to be long and slow but I am glad to have started it on the beach. :-)

I met Jeremy, another guest visiting from London, who wanted to know if he could borrow one of our Powerbook power cords. We had a nice chat while I was stretching and I introduced him round to the denizens of The Ocean Breeze. He and his significant other are thinking of emigrating to Canada and are trying to figure out where, Victoria perhaps. Hmm, what an idea . . .

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Vegging in Tofino

Greetings from Chesterman's Beach near Tofino BC where yours truly is ensconced for the next week. A week of reading, walking on the beach, a bit of running too, climbing around in the rain forest, eating and sleeping, and other vacation-y activities. Oh yes, my time to re-enter the fray at the Learning Factory is drawing closer and some course prep is probably in the offing. But mostly I just want to relax away from the normal "stuff" at home and the only way to do that is to get away from home ("staycations" may be cheaper but they don't have the charm of getting away) so . . . 

Got up early to finish packing and to take J (the pooch) to Roscoe's Ranch, the holiday camp where she stayed when we were in Argentina last year (she loved it). She was not happy that we were leaving her, as usual, but was also much calmer. 

Buzzed up the  I-5 to make the 12:45 ferry out of Tsawwassen to Duke Point. Not much traffic at all although am I alone in thinking that the freeway on-ramps in the Bellingham area are abrupt? Traffic was popping up rather alarmingly and at speed. It was nice to see the park in Blaine where Team 120 started off the Ragnar Relay. 

Five minute wait at the border. Yep, it was as advertised. Did we need our passports to get into the great Canadian South West? Nope. Did we get searched? Nope. Were we pleasantly surprised? You bet! Will we get the third degree when coming back into the great American North West? Probably. We'll see if we have to take off our shoes to get back in. 

We pulled into the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal having just missed the earlier ferry and had a bit of a wait. After walking around and stretching a bit, we had a fairly mediocre crepe in the ferry terminal (hint, you know you are in trouble when they pull a crepe pancake off a pile rather than making a fresh one). Then reading a bit, Sky Coyote a novel by Kage Baker, and a bit of a nap before we pulled onto the Coastal Inspiration bound for Duke Point on Vancouver Island. 

Wow! What a ship! Brand new and so comfortable. M's second experience on a BC Ferry and this time she was favorably impressed (a couple of years ago we had a much smaller boat that was not as well-appointed). I never got a look at the whole of her though, except through someone else's pictures

Lunch? Egg salad sandwich and fries for me and a salmon salad for M, all while sitting watching our progress through the forward gallery windows. 

The crossing was very calm with not a lot of wind. After a tour of the decks we settled down to read, look out the window, and doze. 

The drive out to Tofino was pretty smooth although we did have a fair amount of traffic in Nanaimo (so many stoplights on the 19). I noticed a silver Subaru wagon with both Hillary and Obama stickers on it. As it went past I glanced over and could swear that one of the Deans from the Learning Factory was inside. Stopped for gas in Port Alberni, 1.35.9 per litre. Actually ALL the gas stations in the area had gas for 1.35.9 per litre. M mentioned that there must be some regulation and such unanimity would be unlikely in the US (something about competition). 

And then the drive got really interesting. The road from Port Alberni to Tofino is rather steep and curvy. It is possible to drive faster that the posted limits, at least it was today as the pavement was dry, but it took all my concentration to negotiate the curves and hills, some of which reminded me of a rusticated version of the vertiginous setting of To Catch a Thief. Spectacular lakes and mountains (still patches of snow too). We'll make sure to take pictures on the way back. 

We got to our B&B, Chesterman's Beach B&B, just before six and R and D were waiting with a home-cooked spaghetti dinner and local champagne (ah, em, "Sparkling Wine") followed by a nice walk on the beach, some unpacking, and chat. It is very dark out tonight, the sunroom a sort of oasis of light, and I can hear the tide coming in. 

Not sure what what we will be doing tomorrow. Sleeping in is probably in the offing and maybe a bit of a run. We'll see. This is, after all, a vacation. 

Today has been a bit grey and cold but we are told that that the weather will turn for the better, temps in the 70's. I am hoping to see a sunset or sunrise like THIS


You got it!