Saturday, February 28, 2009

Coping with the Recession

As a part of our household effort to reduce expenditures, Erik recently invested in a Flowbee. You may recall this device from Wayne's World. You know, that infomercial haircutting product that you hook up to a vacuum cleaner? Well, it's a real product and Erik is a proud new owner. The day that it arrived, Erik hadn't been home 5 minutes before he had the thing hooked up and running.
I am surprised to say that I like the look. But, I do hope that he doesn't decide to grow a moustache.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Little Mexico

For our final Tucson ride, Erik took me a little closer to the border. Starting in a nice little retirement community and heading up hill toward Madera Canyon, Erik pulled me through a fierce headwind. The road was smooth and the traffic was light. Every few miles, the local 'patrol' served as a reminder that we were not far from Mexico. Which got me thinking that our trip to Tucson has been like a trip to Mexico, except with smoother pavement and potable tap water. Each night we feasted on spectacular Mexican food. Though the temperatures were cooler, the scenery was not unlike what we saw when we cycled near Cabo a few years ago. The city of Tucson itself is peppered with the culture as well - like the 80's era Monte Carlo that rolled past us last night with opaque tinted windows and a large sticker on the rear window that read 'Love Macheen'. Based on what I've been reading in the papers about the recent violence in Mexico, I can't see myself getting there any time soon. In the meantime, at least I know where I can go for a 'safe' Mexican getaway. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mount Lemmon

People can tell you about great climbs, but it is impossible to appreciate them unless you try them for yourself. I did just that today. Erik took me up Mount Lemmon. He'd warned me that it was a long one and that it would be cold at the top. He was right. The road ascends approximately 5700 vertical feet over a winding 26 miles. Gradually, the landscape changes from arid desert to snowy alpine and the temperature drops enough to maintain a good cover of snow all around. At the top there is a ski hill, but I wasn't particularly interested in that. My attention was focused on the lodge, which served Erik and I some wonderful warm chili and homemade pie. 
The novelty of snow in the desert was certainly not missed by travelers here. Parked along the side of the road at every opportunity were cars full of families playing in the snow. A popular activity appeared to be to fill truck beds with snow (that's got to be good for the mileage!) and to build snowmen on the back of cars (not so good for visibility).  

It Was a One Man Shootout, and I Lost.

Erik and I show up early for the Shootout so that I could join the 'Old Man Shootout' which leaves 15 minutes earlier than the official Shootout. There are a few dozen riders in the group, which is a few dozen more than I am accustomed to riding with, but a 'poor turnout' by Tucson standards. It's a bit chilly for shorts at 7:15am and, at some point, I overhear someone saying it is 33F. But, the feel of the real air against my skin is amazing, even if it is cold.

I take my place in the two-abreast chain of riders and the dude next to me says 'deadgoat...hmmm...Tori?'. I'm confused at first, thinking that he must know Erik and he's just playing with me. But, it turns out to be Marty Halpren from Winnipeg. I met this guy at La Ruta in 2007 and he gave me his bus ticket back to San Jose when I was faced with the possibility of being stuck by myself in the rain in Limon after the race. Small world.
We are about 30 minutes into the ride and it feels as though we are finally about to get out of the city and I'm even thinkin 'hey, I hope they dial it up a bit soon'. And then HISSSSSSS GUDUDUDUDU. I've got a flat.

I pull out of the group and take my wheel off. I usually don't get flats - heck, I rode the freakin dempster highway with panniers and skinny tires and didn't get any flats. I pull out the tube, which may be original tube on this wheel, because that's how seldom I get flats. I find the pinch flat and I'm thinkin about how I'm gonna get to use my brand spankin new patch kit. It's got two tubes of vulanizer! You never know when one might spontaneously dry up. I pull out the first tube. Its suspiciously light. I pop the opening and find it is full of nothing. Good news, I've got a second tube! Bad news, its dry too. But wait! I remember that I tucked my 'old' tube of vulcanizer in the side of my pouch. Fortunately, its not dry.

I score, glue and patch, reset the tube and tire, and then I begin furiously pumping.


Unscrew the valve, unset the tire, pull the tube out. The patch I'd put on didn't adequately cover both holes. If they made bike tube patches just 10% bigger, this would never happen.

Take two. Rescore, reglue, repatch, reset, repump.


Unscrew, unset, pull out. Looks like there is a second, microscopic pinch flat a few inches down from the first.

Take three. Score, glue, patch, reset, rescrew, and pump.

Pump and pump and pump. This time the air seems to be staying in the tire. I pump and pump some more. Feels about as good as its going to get and I take the pump off. Instantaneously, the valve shoots off and the rim sinks to the ground. This is not the shootout that I had envisioned.

I walk back to a gas station, call six different cab companies, then wait 30 mins for one to show up and take me back to the hotel.

When Erik gets back, he takes me to the bike shop for a new tube and drives me out to the spot where I had been forced to pack it in. I start again, this time on a one man Shootout. At least now its warm out.

I make it to the top of the ascent on this lonely desert road, where Erik has parked to say hi. On my way to see him, I discover the only patch of gravel on the highway. I break my fall with my funny bone and hip. Only surface damage, really, but enough to call it quits for the day.

It was a one man shootout, and I lost.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Back in the Saddle

As if anyone in Calgary needs an excuse to jump on an airplane in mid-February bound for a warmer climate, Erik and I had several. Expiring flight credits and free hotel-stay points made a trip to Tucson a very affordable weekend getaway, even in a recession.

My Deaner had been collecting dust since its last tour of duty (Yukon/NWT, July 2008) and I hadn't ridden a bike since November. So, when Erik and I headed out for our first Tucson ride this morning, I was overwhelmed by the feeling of sweet, sweet joy. The cool wind on my skin. The sunshine warming my body and mind. The freedom. I haven't felt that good since, well, November. It felt good to be back in the saddle. It's like I can finally actually think again.

We headed west, over Starr Pass and through Seguaro National Park. It was a lovely storybook desert ride, with perfect temperatures, great roads and relatively little traffic. I was surprised at how tired my legs were after an 'easy' 3.5 hours. I guess I should be happy to crank that out after 3 months off the bike, but its never easy to go backward. Erik had intentionally kept the pace of today's ride civil, in anticipation of the 'Saturday Shootout'. The Shootout is North America's largest and longest running weekly group ride. A lot of pros and teams come down here to train in the winter - and occasionally they can be spotted at the shootout. When Erik was here last year, he saw Gord Fraser at the Shootout. The pace is fast and you need to arrive with your guns fully loaded. No point in getting tuckered out before a big ride like that.

For dinner, Erik took me to El Charro, which is reputed to be the oldest Mexican Restaurant in the US. It has been owned and operated by that same family since 1922. The signature dish, which Erik ordered, was the sort that you might expect to get for free if you could finish it all. He did. But we still had to pay. The restaurant's slogan is something like 'we're not good because we're old, we're old because we're good'. I can't really argue with that. Erik joked that we should go back there every night while we are here. I certainly wouldn't complain if we did.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Going to the Dentist

Without going into too much detail, I've spent a lot of time with my dentist over the last couple of years. Some experiences are good, some are not. Erik recently passed this on to me to show me the lighter side of visiting the dentist. Seemed too funny not to share.

and, if you like that, you'll love the remix.