Saturday, September 18, 2010

Finally treating the bikes right...

There's been many ways I've transported my bicycles over the years.
It started out with the back of a '74 Ford Pinto I bought for $200 (hatchback didn't even lock, but who would look in that kind of car for an expensive mountain bike, right?). High school was the time period then, and riding was just entering my life in great ways- mountain biking the ND badlands.
Then I graduated to a '84 Bronco II, still shoving my bikes in the back, often with other bikes packed in contorted ways around it, all of them robbing each other of paint with each long drive to whatever trip destination was the current adventure. Like the Pinto, it was nice to have a bike with for when the vehicle decided not to run.
After the Bronco came what is still the vehicle that's logged the most outdoor trip memories, my old Grand Caravan (many of you remember). Now transporting bicycles in (on) the van had many methods. My Surly 1x1 often just stayed in it instead of the garage, so when I was driving and not cycle-commuting, I'd have it on hand for any impromptu rides that may have come up. During trips, my friends and I packed into the van up to 7 people, their bikes (which often included a mtb as well as a road machine), climbing, and camping gear (plus tools, water, food, and maybe piles of homework if we were feeling responsible.) This meant that sometimes the bikes would get lashed onto the roof (no roof rack- we were aviation students with serious bills and no notable income), or to whatever sketchy old strap-to-the-hatch bike rack someone had borrowed from someone kind and older who "had a good bike rack in their garage that they really didn't use anymore." Sometimes this mass of rack/straps/bikes/locks would be covered in a ratty old tarp held together with duct tape and bungy cords (which had to get re-configured at about every 5th truckstop or so), since we would no doubt be driving out of ND in the butt of a winter blizzard to reach sunny UT in March. Many excellent trips with excellent people in that van. Some of the best.
The van was eventually laid to rest at 208,000 miles, which was actually a bit early for it's kind, but it had seen a lot of outdoor trip drama. With the van gone, my Nissan Frontier that I am still driving entered the scene. While I'm certainly of average earnings, I've finally reached a point in my life where I don't have to treat my valued bikes like garbage to move them around anymore, and that's a good thing. My pickup has a lockable topper, and with the help of my father-in-law, within that topper is a custom 4 bike rack welded from angle iron he had laying around (he's a project junkie), and fork mounts I'd purchased for previous homemade racks (usually made of wood, that would dry up and fall apart, but I still had the fork mounts). In addition to our pickup, my wife's new vehicle just received our first fully lockable roof rack setup. So there should be no reason to be shoving bicycles into whatever spaces are left after packing in other trip gear and people anymore.
With the new capability comes goals too. Even though there was a lack of great ways to take care of bicycles in past ventures, it's clear that the poor early years of needing to get creative to pull off the bigs trips were many of the greatest outdoor years thus far. These vehicles/racks were purchased to get out there. Time to get planning, heal from surgery, and haul some bikes to see some country.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Congratulations Kelly!

My close friend of many years, Kelly Paasch, ran and finished the Wasatch 100 today (and yesterday). 33 hours and 8 minutes of mountain trail running. Very impressive! It is truly a huge accomplishment and I am proud of him. Great job man! If I can heal from this summer's chest trauma we'll have to go explore some trail sometime (perhaps you can go easy on me.) :)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Day 53

Day 53 from surgery provided a little sense of normalcy for me, in the respect that I got out for a hike that wasn't super short, and to a place out of the city, albeit not far. After spending a quick but valuable Saturday with Alison while she got to come home from Memphis, I dropped her off at the airport again, and needed to find a way to keep myself busy. I sat around the apartment, tried to read, got some chores out of the way, and did some cooking, but I didn't feel much satisfaction with the day. I really felt like I needed to get out and spend some time outside. As stated in previous blogs since surgery my outdoor abilities are pretty much restricted to walking around in places I'm not likely to fall over (not that a have a falling over problem or anything- I just can't put much force into my upper body and slipping and catching myself would result in unpleasantries). I suppose luckily in this sort of case, I'm not likely to find myself clinging to any knife-edge ridgelines in Southern MN. I headed out to Afton State Park and took a summer hike along the snowshoe loop system in it's southern portion. I'd never hiked it in the winter (or at all actually), and I imagine it's a very different looking place then. It felt odd to be following posts with snowshoe graphics marking a trail that was currently overgrown with prarie tallgrass, flowers, bushes, and lots of leaves (quite a few bugs too, but we won't talk negative for now.) I managed to get in exactly 4 miles of hiking, with an ultra-light daypack weighing in under 3lbs (although I can technically carry up to 25lbs via doctor instruction, I don't know what I could possibly need for this kind of walk that would neccesitate my dealing with what would be an allowable but uncomfortable pack at this point). I went light on the footware side too, hiking in FiveFingers. I was a good way to get out and return to something outside, and go on my longest walk since the pectus operation. I'll probably try to get out again soon and walk more of Afton's trails since it's close to town and doesn't take much effort. I'm not quite ready to sport the Dana and Sundowners on the Superior Hiking Trail yet. :) Little steps back to normal...

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Some things are cooling down.

In a couple of ways- I'm getting back to living, to some extent, after my surgery. Summer is creeping toward fall. I'm happy to see both of these thing.
The past three weeks I've been back at work after the long month home starting to recovery from my chest operation. I can't say things at work have been wonderful- our airline is going through an awful lot of changes, and all of it's employees futures have yet to be finalized. I'm not as worried that my job will be moving soon as I was initially, but the possibility is still there. It's been irritating to say the least. But it has been nice to not be confined to the apartment, and to be feeling better than I was. Going from constant pain and discomfort to feeling little pain and simply being weak is a welcome improvement. October will mark the point where my lifting restrictions aren't a big factor anymore, and they'll be totally lifted in January. I'm told I'll feel more and more "normal" as those dates go by. So I'm happy to see the summer coming to an end. I don't enjoy heat and humidity (another reason I don't intend to move where my job may go), and fall is my favorite season in MN. I'm ready for long sleeves and changing colors. Ready to stare out at at even colder Lake Superior and burn some firewood. Ready to camp again after all this being holed up at home in the city.
One thing I'll be missing this fall is cycling (and climbing, and backpacking, and running, but mostly cycling). I think fall is my favorite riding season too. It's normal to be at peak yearly fitness around now, and I expect the weather and scenery will great as per normal for fall, so it's perfect for long rides. You might cite that the sun won't be up as long, but hey, the make helmet lights for that. Getting caught out after dark and riding home with the moon and crisp fresh air isn't exactly a negative in my opinion. I see it as part of the fall outdoor experience. But I'll have to wait until fall of 2011 for those types of rides. But instead of fussing over missed riding, I'm going to try my best to enjoy the things I can do- day hikes (snow-shoeing as winter sets in), and the aforementioned camping. There's a lot even a post-surgery outdoor fanatic can do with a good pair of feet and some time. There are a lot of parks in MN I haven't been too, and way more of the Shore to explore, and I hope to get out even despite the fact that I'll be in the worst form of my outdoor life for awhile yet.
I've been keeping my mind occupied indoors more than normal, out of necessity with all this sitting still. I've read some good books- about food, nature, bikes, faith, all good stuff. I'm also working on learning Spanish. It's a good time to do the things I normally am too distracted to do while running around outside.
So some things are looking up. But since there is always a yin to the yang, or whatever contrasting symbolism you prefer, I do have something that has pretty much only been a bother. Alison has had to essentially live out of state recently. Her new flying job involves a standard 8 or so weeks of training, and this time we're not lucky enough to see it happen right here in the Cities. She's down in TN for now, and we don't know where she'll be based when she's on the line. We're back to the lifestyle of living apart quite a bit, and that's a part of flying I've never liked. It does help us value the time we have together though. I suppose there's something good of it.
In time out of state training will end, I'll heal even more, and we will all get back to living like we were. For now we'll try to keep our mood positive and enjoy the things we can.