Friday, November 25, 2016

Ride Report - Dead Indian Memorial Road with Brother, Nephew, and Daughter


My bike club doesn’t have too many rules. The main one is: don’t talk about bike club. No, this isn’t a lame joke; the point is, don’t bore your spouse with details of the rides, the races (if any), the coffee, or the makeup tips. (Makeup tips? Yep. For example, “After sweating out half a gallon on the indoor trainer, I alternate Dior L’or De Vie with TNS Essential Serum to hydrate my skin, even out the tone, and improve the texture without blocking my pores.”)

That said, most of us do write about bike club. For the more adventurous this means a race report, which traditionally focuses on the food. It’s been a couple years now since I last raced, so I have to make do with ride reports. Here is my report of the assault four of us made on Dead Indian Memorial Road, a 13-mile climb near Ashland, Oregon. The four of us are my brother Bryan, his son John, my daughter Alexa, and your humble online correspondent.

Executive Summary

Our Thanksgiving Day ride was gear-intensive, cold, beautiful, even colder, frigid, fun, and has been described as “a non-stop laugh riot” (Steve Persall, Tampa Bay Times). Peak elevation 5,300 feet. Precipitation: none (whew!).

Short version

Dammit all to hell, I’m writing this in a motel lobby and some employee just came over and turned on the TV. I’m the only one in here … do I really look like I want a TV on? 
  • Ride stats: an additional 2-4 inches of snow expected in the Cascades, and a couple more inches in the Mount St Helens area. Oops, sorry, I was channeling the TV news. Why are they reporting Washington weather? I’m in southern Oregon!
  • Breakfast: waffle, two sausage disks, yogurt, coffee (black)
  • Pre-ride snack: Fritos, of all things (there was a bag in my brother’s van which we drove to the ride start near Ashland)
  • During ride: one Clif Block Shot, mountain berry flavor
  • Glycogen window treat: Mom’s homemade fudge, baby! Man, I’d ride through a pool of liquid nitrogen to get that. Also, pickled herring (two kinds: plain and in sour cream).
  • Dinner: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, cranberry relish, candied yams, French-cut green beans, buckets of gravy, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. (Duh!)
Long version

If you’re considering adopting a furry friend this holiday season, make like Elvis and put a couple bullet holes through the damn TV! Man, there’s no escaping this thing. (I can’t go to my room because my family is in there enjoying an L-tryptophan doze. )

Wow, 32 inches of snow on Mount Baker this morning and the news lady says she thinks it’ll be a lot more, and she should know because she woke up at 4 a.m. to spend 90 minutes styling her hair. I only care (about Mount Baker, not her hair) because I rode that climb awhile back (click here). Okay, I promise I’ll stop letting the TV news interfere with mine.

I wanted to be able to skip lunch and eat a minimum of during- and post-ride snacks, so that I’d have the hugest possible appetite for Thanksgiving dinner. So I ate one of those motel breakfast bar waffles, that have the uncanny property of never sticking to the waffle iron. I looked up the ingredients of that batter once, and discovered it contains both propane and butane (seriously). I also had two of the crazy salty sausage patties, and as a result I am now growing breasts. I think it’s all the hormones in the meat. At least I found some yogurt without any Splenda in it. That’s getting hard to do.

It took us all morning to suit up, perhaps because we were trading around a lot of clothing and felt overwhelmed by all the options available to us. I’d been watching the weather forecast for a week and it seemed entirely possible there would be rain, which at the higher altitudes would mean snow. (Last year we—i.e., Bryan, Alexa, and I—had to turn around 2/3 of the way up because the road was iced over.) My nephew John is locally famous for never having the right gear on these rides … imagine pedaling 120 miles in high-top sneakers. He’s done that, twice. This time I brought him some leg warmers, some cycling shoes, and some cycling pedals to go with those shoes. Was this an absurd mother hen kind of behavior not grounded in any real need? Well, I asked if he had any leg warmers and he said, “I was gonna ride in sweats.” He even tried to politely decline the cycling shoes and pedals on the grounds that it was too much hassle. Also, he didn’t have any gloves. Bryan had a wide assortment of gloves but not many that matched. John ended up rocking a baseball batting glove on one hand for the ride up, and giant wool socks, worn like mittens, for the descent.

Alexa knew about the weather forecast, but hadn’t packed any leg warmers for the trip. Why not? Because her leg warmers are white. She and her mom are in 100% agreement that females cannot wear white leg warmers. (They were both present when I paid good money for these leg warmers and I wish they’d spoken up then.) So Alexa had to wear the leg warmers I’d brought for John, whose dad surprised me by having a second pair handy. Whew!

Here’s Bryan’s 1984 Team Miyata, which John rides, equipped with my loan of some of the more high-tech pedals on the market (the spring is just a piece of carbon fiber), juxtaposed with the pedals I removed from the bike, which I’m pretty sure are the most high-tech toe-clip-style pedals ever made:

We finally got on the road at 1:30 p.m., which is at the outer limit of when it would be wise to begin this ride. We’re so far north, the sun sets at 4:42 p.m. at this time of year. Plus, the sun just isn’t that strong here, probably because there’s no sales tax revenue to bribe Mother Nature with.

You already saw the “before” photo, above. It was close to 50 degrees out and somewhat sunny when we started. The landscape is spare, sparse, Spartan, spacious, and special. Here’s a photo showcasing the scrub.

The ride starts in this basin where the air is extra cold. Then the grade gets steeper, you start working harder, and you warm up a bit. At mile 6 (guess how I know this?) Alexa was able to roll up her sleeves. Isn’t it great that it’s still possible to write non-metaphorically about rolling up sleeves?

The three men on the ride had old-school (i.e., non-compact) cranksets. That’s why I’m able to use the word “men” in that last sentence. Alexa has a compact crank—not because she’s female, mind you, but because she’s still a kid and that’s what her dad outfitted her with. One day she will rip all our legs off, but on this ride she took advantage of her low gearing and drifted back at times. As she and her teenaged friends like to say, “Don’t judge!”

As the sun sank and we gained altitude the air got progressively colder. I was pretty comfortable in a long-sleeve merino wool long-sleeve base layer I bought for my brother Max last year. He mailed it back to me because—get this—his arms are too muscular to fit in the sleeves. (We should all have such problems, eh?) Look, snow:

The scenery got more impressive all the time, perhaps because my oxygen-starved brain shut down unnecessary applications and became more perceptive to the natural world. The Russian writer Mikhail Lermontov, in A Hero of Our Time, says (through his narrator), “In simple hearts, the sense of the beauty and grandeur of nature is a hundred times stronger and more vivid than it is in us, enthusiastic tellers of tales.” Lermontov’s translator, Vladimir Nabokov, provides this footnote: “This is, of course, a romanticist notion. It is completely untrue.” I love both of these writers and wish they could have been on our ride. Here is some of that grandeur:

Look at the crepuscular rays on the right there. My brother says they might be “prepuscular” rays, though I’m not sure that’s even a word. (He has joined me in the lobby. Whoops, there he goes. Guess he got bored.) I think I’ll go with “sunbeams.”

It got mighty cold. I have to say, it would have been worse except the wind tended to be at our backs. This filled me with something like guilt, or maybe karmic fear. Like, we are only blessed with this tailwind because somebody, somewhere, is riding into a frigid headwind. Or, if we enjoy this tailwind now, we will pay later. That said, I paid into the karmic weather system big time last August: click here for details. Anyway, you can tell it was cold because Alexa has put on her arm warmers.

Here we are at the summit.

Note the wool sock on John’s hand, used as a mitten.  Also, see how Alexa’s got her hood pulled up under her helmet? I’m really glad for that hood. During the climb, as we noted the temperature (36 degrees), I asked Alexa, “You brought a warm hat, right?” She had not. I asked if she had been aware it would be cold. She countered that I didn’t tell her to bring a hat. Now, my wife and I believe in employing the “natural consequences” style of discipline. For example, if your kid drags her feet getting ready in the morning, you don’t nag her—you just allow her to make herself late for school so she’ll have to accept the consequences. But this doesn’t work in all cases. Yeah, I could let her descend Dead Indian in the frigid cold without a warm hat, to teach her a lesson, but it would be such a painful ordeal, it’d be tantamount to corporal punishment. So I was on the brink of deciding to loan her my hat (meaning I would go hatless and suffer terribly, because enduring pain is part of being a parent) when she remembered her hood. Problem solved!

The descent was beautiful, very cold, and impossible to photograph. We could see it was snowing at the higher elevation. Across the country people are mourning Florence Henderson, who played the mom on The Brady Bunch. Am I mourning? That’s a strong word. I never liked that show much, to be honest, and was not personally acquainted with Ms. Henderson. You know what I’m mourning? The fact that this TV news has once again infiltrated my story.

Alexa was in fine spirits as we descended. If you have a surly teenager (a phrase I now realize is redundant), just get her out on a bike ride. She may be quiet and withdrawn at the beginning of a ride, but as all the adrenaline and endorphins work their magic, along with the majesty of nature and the thrilling speed of the descent, she’ll likely become ebullient and downright chatty. I have witnessed this magic hundreds of times (dating from my own teenage years).

Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear most of what Alexa was saying because we now had a headwind and I was wearing this silly plastic jacket (on loan from my brother) that rattled in the wind at like 80 decibels. At one point I thought Alexa said, “I spotted a towhee!” but actually she’d said, “I saw a spotted towhee!” I saw it too and it was a very pretty bird. I had a great-uncle-in-law who loved bird-watching. “Yesterday I saw a double-breasted mattress-smasher!” he once boasted. He could get away with this because he was old. I can get away with it, I hope, because I’m quoting an old guy.

On the lower, shallower slopes Alexa said, “I can’t wait until we get to the van. I’m gonna crank the heat all the way up!” I replied, “Sorry, Alexa … didn’t you hear? The van’s heater is broken.” She looked crestfallen and said, “You’re joking.” I said, “Yes, I am.” And I was. “Why are you like this?” she complained. This is how you stamp down the rapport you’ve built up with your offspring during a bike ride. You stamp it down because you can: because this rapport seems an inexhaustible resource, so long as your kid keeps riding.

We drove back to my mom’s house where preparation of the Thanksgiving meal was nearing completion. Alexa had heard a rumor about fudge. I asked my mom. “Yes, there’s fudge,” she whispered, “but I’m not giving it out until Sunday. But I do have a secret stash, just for the bikers.” Oh, man, it was unbelievable. You know how you go to those fudge places in malls, like Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and it costs more than cocaine, and kids jump up and down and want to order everything, even the stupid little stuffed animal? That stuff is like old modeling clay compared to my mom’s fudge. This stuff is nirvana. In the exercise-enhanced palates of cyclists, the sense of the beauty and grandeur of fudge is a hundred times stronger and more vivid than in players of board games. Before you decry this as a romanticist notion that is completely untrue, go climb a 5,000-foot mountain in the blistering cold. And then get your own damn fudge, I’m not sharing.

Bryan and I capped the glycogen window snack with a couple of beers, mainly so that I could Beck’st my friends.

Then we munched on the herring that I mentioned already. After our showers we tucked into that Thanksgiving feast, with perfectly stoked appetites. Life is good!

For a complete index of albertnet posts, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment