Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Pacific Sun

Surfer and sea lion, originally uploaded by Cyclenaut.

So today I decide to just spin along the coast, camera in tow, to work the legs just a little and more importantly, to take some pictures. I had a route all planned that would wind me along the cliffs above the ocean and back again. I didn't even make it halfway. There were so many things to take pictures of including 3 different surf spots, wildflowers drapped over the edge somehow adhering themselves to rock, crashing waves, a sea otter, and an enormous sea lion.

I think it's entirely possible to spend a great deal of time in just this town, riding a bike and taking in the sights, and still manage to miss some really cool thing. This is obviously a surfer's paradise, but there are a lot of things here that could satisfy a wide range of interest groups.

Anyhoo, it was good to have the camera back in my hands today. I'm going to make a serious effort to actually do the whole ride I had in mind. I might force myself to keep the camera in the pink bag until I'm beyond where I was today.

Surfer and sea otter, originally uploaded by Cyclenaut.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Santa Cruz

I've survived my first Sea Otter. It was great. My skin got a little too baked, but I know what will happen if I say anything more that even hints at being a negative comment about the sun.

Now I'm chillin' at Chez Bontrager in the lovely Santa Cruz, California. I spent the last few days relaxing in the sun with either a magazine or a laptop at hand. The mornings and evenings are cool enough for a fleece, and the afternoons are warm enough for shorts and no shoes. It's really hard to find a negative thing to say about this place.

I've also done some riding, which is a must here for any self-respecting rider. Road or mountain, take your pick...there's an abundance of both.

The only bad part about the riding I've done here has been the fact that I've been out with a legend of the sport, and not one but TWO world champions. Some would probably say that this isn't a bad thing. To be fair, these three are terribly nice people, one a long time friend, one a new friend that has the makings of a long term friendship, and the other a young buck who's taking a break from racing for some introspection. I knew I was slow, and not very good. Riding with my usual clique (see what I did there?) reminds me of that all the time. This is a whole other world though, riding with these people. What was I thinking!? The three of them were happily skipping along up these trails, no matter how steep the climbs or technical the downhills. And then there was me. Feeling behind a distance that felt like miles. What's worse is that we were in this amazing, picturesque spot that would have produced some awesome photos, if only I'd had my camera and the ability to not be so far behind everyone.

Since I couldn't maintain any sort of pace, I wasn't involved in their chatting, and when they had to wait for me there was no pausing once I arrived. All in all, it was a very lonely ride for me. I was overwhelmingly tired from the hard work at Sea Otter, and not having some decent sleep since Chipps left. Add to that my amazing ability to assume snail-like attributes on a bike, and you have the makings of a very pokey ride for people who are used to the bike version of light speed. I stopped at one point to admire the view, which included downtown Santa Cruz, and the ocean. I should have been having a good time and enjoying the setting, but I kept wishing that I was with the Thursday night ride crowd, or any of the usual suspects. I wonder if racer types mix well with social riders. Maybe if I were faster, I'd be able to appreciate things more, or in a different way. I'd love to ask them if they saw that view, but I can't catch them to do so.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The all-in-one toilet and shower

After dragging ourselves across 700 miles of Midwestern plains, we hit Cheyenne, Wyoming at just after midnight. We checked into a Comfort Inn, which has free waffles for breakfast. Upon arriving to our room, travel weary and both in desperate need of a bathroom, we were greeted with this:

Adding insult to injury is the fact that we've been basking in warm sunshine, wearing shorts and t-shirts for the past 3 days, and last night we got out of the car to temperatures just above freezing. It's now snowing. Bring on California!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Dirty little secrets

A brief update before I turn in. I have an early start tomorrow and need to catch up on some sleep.

I've finally met my parner in crime for my adventures here. After some brief conversations, it's obvious that we have a lot in common. It hasn't been the most relaxed introduction I've had here, but I think that's really a function of still being under some pressure before we head out for our trip to Sea Otter on Thursday. We managed to get out on the bikes for a quick spin tonight, and I think that has helped things a lot. It's amazing how being able to go for a ride with someone can establish the groundwork for building a friendship. Above all else, we both have a love of all things bike related.

If I haven't told everyone, the skinny is that Chrissy Redden raced mountain bikes professionally for the last 9 years, first with Ritchey, then with Gary Fisher. She was on the Canadian national team for the past 11 years, and was a member of the Olympic team in 1996. In yet another small world example, I just found out today that she was one of the Fisher racers at the Ft. William World Cup race last year, and I remember seeing her.

We were at dinner tonight with a guy that used to run the Fisher team. The two of them were catching up and sharing stories of people they knew and hadn't heard from. It was a Who's Who of the race scene, and it was funny to hear the gasping tales of who's living with whom now, and what the real story is behind that person's departure from that team, etc. etc. There was a lot of name dropping going on, but not at all in the context of 'Oh yes, of course I know so'n'so, but do YOU know la laalaa?'. On the contrary. It was a conversation like most old friends have who share a circle of some sort, and who catch each other up on the happenings of their mutual friends. It just happens that the 'friends' in this conversation are names that appear regularly in cycling publications, and people who are at the top of the sport.

I finished my meal first because I had little to contribute to the conversation.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Out like a lion

First, a picture of a cute, skipping, wonky lamb:

And now, on to today...

So I'm in Toledo, Ohio. It's between Cleveland, and Chicago and sits on the coast of Lake Erie. It's got a downtown skyline, but really it's a small city. The city's biggest claims to fame are the Toledo Mudhens, a minor league baseball team, and the fact that Max Clinger from M*A*S*H was said to be from here. It was a good enough place to stop for the night though, even though there was still plenty of daylight left. Stopping before midnight on a cross country trip is rare for me, but I had the following things working against me today:

1) Jet lag
2) The clocks moved forward last night
3) It snowed all the way across the State of Pennsylvania, which for those playing along at home is a pretty big State. My north then west route made it probably about 300 miles worth of a big ole snow storm that looked like this from my view:

I was happy to make it this far, and given the fact that I cross a time zone tomorrow, I'll make it to Madison at a reasonable hour.

I read RHS' blog this morning before I left, and he said something that I understood, but in a slightly different context. In his case, driving helped him to clear the fog he was feeling when he left Vienna. For me, every mile I drive west is a reminder that I'm getting further away from a place I really want to be. It doesn't escape me how much of a broken record I am about this. Perhaps I'll feel less of a need to talk about it out loud as the summer progresses.

Chipps told me once that I'd adjust to life back in the States. Actually, I hope not.