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Thursday, June 30, 2011

shoe life 900 [message snippet]

My running shoes are still "only" at 900 miles. They're starting to show some wear on the sole. More wear than my shoes usually have when I retire them. In the past my shoes have tended to look almost brand new when they get retired - even after 600 miles, my standard retirement age. I'm wearing a pair right now that has 600 miles on them. They look great. They even smell great! So now I'm thinking should I ransack my closet and bring those shoes out of retirement? Put another 400 miles on all my old runners. Why don't I just buy a new pair of shoes? Am I a cheap bastard? Or do I just not want to buy another god damn product from over seas. New Balance has several models that are made here in the USofA. But I don't want to buy those either – yet. Not when I potentially have a few thousand useful miles left just sitting around in my closet. How do you decide when the time is right to retire your shoes?


I'm more concerned with long distance transportation of those shoes (eco impact) then who makes them. It seems like with something as basic to our lives as shoes, though, that every region should be making their own and supporting local economies. Although, I do like your idea of fair trade shoes. I'm still planning to get to 1000 on the current shoes. Then I'm going to do some shoe-surgery and get them ready for the next 1000. I'm going to take off that plastic plate on the arch of the sole and see what happens. I think that thing is just getting in the way. Hope we can run together soon.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The French Are Coming!

Well, yes, there’s Le Tour de France that starts this weekend(!), but that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’ve stopped for two cyclists with flat tires in the last two weeks. Both of them have been walking their bikes along the side of the road – presumably intending to walk all the way home, which is to say, wherever they’re staying. Amazingly, both of these cyclists were French! I mean, what are the odds of that? And they both had nearly brand new bikes. Maybe I’ve got the wrong idea about the French because of Le Tour, I mean it can’t be that everyone over there is a bike nut, but still I was a little surprised by either their inability or their lack of appropriate tools to fix their flats. They both tried to help as I helped them but… well, sometimes two’s a crowd.

On a more personal and/or psychological and/or spiritual note, I have to say that both times I was rather reluctant to stop and help. Does that make me a bad person? Today I was like, oh god, another flat tire walker! And I rode by, but then I realized that was a dick move so I returned. I guess I figure that if you’re already walking your bike then you’ve made the decision that it’s probably just easier to walk it home because you’re close and don’t want to deal with the side of the road, would just rather fix it at home with a beer within reach.

Funny thing though, I was just before I saw this cyclist thinking about the book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and how a certain one of my friends could probably benefit from reading it. In the book, Siddhartha learns that he can sit, he can fast, and he can wait.

As I was passing this flat-tired-cyclist I was like man it’s hot and I’m hungry and I’m tired from all that work. But then I was like OK, I can wait, I can fast. It can wait. The universe will not be thrown off kilter. No place else to be. So I turned around and we patched the tube. Hopefully that patch holds forever.

So I think I passed the test today and that other day with that other Frenchy. I didn’t get an A today, though. Or that other day for that matter. I think to get an A you’ve got to lose the reluctance and you’ve got to stop on the first pass. I’ll give myself a C. C+, okay.

Now my hands smell like vulcanizing fluid and/or inner tube rubber. That stuff is hard to wash off.

Ceci n’est pas une pneumatique plat…

Vive le France!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

currently reading

Be Brave, Be Strong: A Journey Across the Great Divide
by Jill Homer, 2011

On-hours on Brown Mountain (post 499)

So I rode up to the trailhead on Saturday morning and as expected there were a lot of people up there on the mountain. The parking lot was over flowing down the street. But no worries for me, I just locked up to a telephone pole guy wire and went for a run up El Prieto – the nice shaded singletrack trail in the area.

I may not have the technical riding skills to do that trail justice on a bike (I had to hike-a-bike too much a couple weeks ago) but it’s sweet for running. And when you’re on foot you’ve got right of way over all the mtn bikers coming down the trail so the crowds don’t matter. Although, I try to be friendly and let them keep their momentum when the circumstances work out for it or if they look friendly or make an effort to recognize that I’m there. Sometimes, though, when they don’t seem to understand the rights-of-way up there I get right in their way and make sure they understand them. Because I’m a mtn biker too and I want to make sure that they don’t fuck up our trail use privileges.

I’m not such a fan of having El Prieto open for bikes, actually. It’s a very narrow trail. And more significantly it’s sort of a delicate area and some of the mtn bikers thrash it up. Others are considerate of the trail and its users though so it’s kind of a tough call.

It was a great run. I’m really getting used to the whole splash through the little creeks thing. It took me a long time to finally get this but it really is so much better to just run on through rather than prancing and balancing around on rocks and logs and then falling in anyway. And on this trail at this time of year the water is very low (mostly ankle deep) so often times your footfall splashes the water to the side just long enough so that you don’t even get wet.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

light smog

For the first time in a while I’ve been noticing the smog. It’s only mildly annoying at this point. Generally, for such a big urban area with a history of smog problems, the smog here is not bad. It used to be terrible back when I was a kid and through a lot of work we cleaned it up pretty nicely. But there’s still smog of course. Maybe it’s something I just need to re-acclimate to at the beginning of every summer. Or maybe it’s getting worse again.

The title of this post works out to be a double entendre. I think the type of smog I’m experiencing right now is photochemical smog created by the interaction between certain air pollutants and sunlight. And with these longer days around the solstice I guess we’re getting more smog producing hours. Something like that, or not.

I should probably move to someplace nice and clean and lovely. But, Brown Mountain! Oh yeah, and Lineage Dance!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Princess Pippa

It’s not often that I draw inspiration from a princess but that performance by Pippa in the Highland Cross that’s sweeping the news right now was pretty impressive. I’d never heard of The Highland Cross before but it looks like an awesome event. It crosses all of Scotland – 20 miles of trail running and 30 miles of road biking. Pippa finished in just over five hours which seems quite fast. It appears that they do the run first and then the bike, opposite from triathlon order. I’m not sure if that seems easier or harder. I guess it’s nice to get the hard part over with first but I can't imagine climbing on a bike after running 20 miles. Although, with closed roads for biking I imagine the final 30 goes pretty fast. There's not a lot of info on the race website about the course so I'm not sure about elevation profiles but I suppose I need to accept this challenge and put together my own version - The Arroyo Cross. I hope I don't lose to a princess.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Off-hours on Brown Mountain

Back in the pre-fire days I liked to ride Brown Mountain on the weekend because there were lots of people out and up there and it was fun and inspiring to be a part of that shared experience. But as I think I mentioned somewhere earlier the conditions up there are quite different after the fire. What used to be a dirt road wide enough to drive a truck up has narrowed considerably due to small slides and plant growth to what is now basically single track. Most of the original road way still seems to be intact it’s just sorta buried. And it might come back but until it does it’s singletrack up there. Which for most people would be fantastic news. Isn’t that what every mountain biker is always raving about? It’s like everyone’s got a singletrack mind out there. And I too enjoy me some good singletrack assuming it’s not too technical. Brown Mountain singletrack/road is now about the limit of what I like in single track. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like I really need to have it to myself now. There’s no room to pass anyone in either direction so one person always has to stop. Not a big deal if there’s only a few people up there but crowded weekends could be a bit of a hassle for a while. I only have so much patience for constantly clicking in and out of my pedals. So for the past three weeks, since I first found out it was open again, I’ve been heading out and up on off-hours.

Also of note, I haven’t seen any of the regulars up there yet. There was sort of a crew of several people that I would see pretty regularly up there and that was fun too – I miss that. So maybe I’ll have to brave the crowds to find them again.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Patience, Grasshopper

It’s that time of year again, the day of the locust. These tiny little baby grasshoppers are amazing. For perspective, that’s a dead bee on the left. Completely covered is a baby Agave plant in a 4” diameter pot.(As usual, click photo to enlarge, click again for enlarger-est.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

smells like the arroyo

There’s a distinct smell down in the Arroyo. I noticed it this morning on my run. It’s smelled the same down there for my whole life. Smells are pretty good for triggering memory and whenever I smell the Arroyo I’m reminded of a summer camp that I went to down in the upper Arroyo when I was like 8 years old. We mostly wandered around and built forts and rode horses and went swimming in creeks and such. Very Tom Sawyer-esque. I can’t quite place what the smell is – probably a combination of plants and water and horses – it’s sorta like a mild sweetness with just a touch of bitter. I hadn’t noticed it for a while. I think it was noticeable today because I was up on Brown yesterday and last week. And Brown smells different than the Arroyo. It’s a bit surprising because they’ve got a lot of the same plants and they’re very close to each other – it’s all the same watershed. But as soon as you hit the mountains it doesn’t smell like the Arroyo anymore. Heading back down there tomorrow. Arroyo Arroyo Arroyo…

Thursday, June 9, 2011

totally unorganized to ride Humble Horse

Also, renaming the Mtn Bike to Humble Horse. I was never very happy with my previous names for it. But Humble Horse sounds good and goes well with Mindful Mule, its friend.

I was planning to take a rest day today. But Brown Mountain is Open! Who can rest when there’s so many trails to get reacquainted with?!

But getting out on the road was a little bit of a process. Humble Horse hasn’t been ridden in like forever. I think the last time I rode it was on the Old Ridge Route in December 2009!

So, it’s sorta been in mothballs for a while. Obviously it needed air in the tires and shocks but that’s not so different from how it would be when in weekly riding condition. It also needed pedals. I stole its pedals for the Purple People Eater road bike a while back when PPE’s pedals self-destructed – I never really figured out why that happened to those pedals – I think there was an internal flaw that eventually just ground the bearing cones to shit and it popped off from the spline. Luckily I had some old, nearly perfectly functioning pedals in the wings for HH (no Lolita jokes!) – the left side pedal only clicks-in on one side – no biggie.

Also at some point during the last year and a half I stole HH’s spare inner tube for Mindful Mule. And that thing is packed so precisely into MM’s little Cage Rocket that I didn’t want to remove it. So I went with just a patch kit and a 700X25 tube. I just didn’t want to remove that 700 tube from the seat bag either. My bikes do a lot of sharing of parts and accessories, you can see. But, why not when, except on rare occasion, you can only ride’em one at a time anyway?

Along the way I was wondering if a 700X25 tube could do a thing to allow you to limp home on a 26X2 tire. I won’t take you through the entire thought process, but the essence of it was no, maybe, would be fun to try, you’d probably be better off walking it home.

Let’s see, what else wasn’t ready to go? I guess that’s about it. Actually not too bad after a long hiatus. Amazingly, the odometer battery still worked.

So off we finally went. It felt totally strange to be on Humble Horse again. First big notice was the brakes – they actually work – and how! I practically endoed going down my driveway. Light finger pressure on the levers took some relearning.

And the shocks are crazy. I’d forgotten how much they squish even on the road.

And the tires – the knobbies are loud!

But she spins so nicely once you get her going…

And then the mountain. Brown Mountain. You forget about everything up there.

Rode El Prieto Trail on the way down. It’s what I would call semi-technical single track. Some of the best around, or so everybody says. But I’ve never been much of a technical rider – and especially not now. With all this time away from the trails I have a hard enough time just staying upright on the fire road. Although already things are better than last week. It was good to be on El P, though. It’s a very nice trail. Better suited for foot travel, I think. Looking forward to a trail run up there again soon.

Brown Mountain is not quite the same as it was. Current conditions discourage fast descents – which is probably a good thing. Maybe too many yahoos up there going fast in the past. But that thrill of a speedy descent was part of the fun. Now it’s narrower and slightly more technical and visibility is lower due to encroachment from foliage. It will probably widen up a little more soon enough with more use.

I have the feeling though that the Forest Service is going to let this road decommission itself. It will turn into a wide single or double track trail which is fine and good but like I said just not the same. Someday the top will open, too, and everything will be just fine even without the speed factor.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

currently reading

The Taste of Place: A Cultural Journey Into Terroir
by Amy Trubek, 2008

Monday, June 6, 2011

one last rain ride

We’re getting pretty close to the end of the rain season here in southern California. Although, I have to say that the weather/climate does seem to be very different this season. We’ve had a lot of rain spread gradually throughout the season – 81 centimeters. I feel like summer could be unusual too. Maybe a little more mountain west feel to it – may be a good summer for thunder showers which seem to have their own secret non-annual recurring cycles.

Last night we got a quick un-forecast rain event. It was raining pretty hard for several minutes and then trailed off quickly to light rain. I was out in town all dressed up in tweed coat and such for an event. Me and the Mule were luckily under cover through the downpour but we did ride home through the light stuff. It was pretty nice, actually. Dressed up like that, and without my front light – having forgotten to take it off the recharger from the night before – and with the light rain and darkness, too, for some reason, I felt quite euro. Like I was riding home like a normal man in Belgium.

The tweed coat is great for night riding. It made me realize that there is some method and evolution to its design. It’s warm and somewhat water-oblivious and nicely breathable.

As for the no front light well that didn’t really seem to make any difference. I don’t think motorist really register when they see a tiny little bike light heading toward them anyway. It almost seems like I’m more visible to motorists without the light because they sense the faint presence of a human in the dark better than they can grasp the meaning of a light that isn’t a blue halogen bright flood that so many of their horseless carriages seem to employ these days.

Plus somehow feeling normal (like a normal Belgian) on the bike gets transmitted to those around you. It was a very mellow ride even though there were still a lot of cars out and it was raining. Channeling euro riding normalcy into the American worldview may already be getting us somewhere.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Brown Mountain Open!!!!!!!!!! (almost, but close enough)

Go sing it on the mountain! Brown has risen! It’s not open all the way to the top quite yet but it’s so close. I was just up there this afternoon for the first time in a year and a half plus. I just thought I’d check for updates on the Forest Service website today and saw that they’ve opened up quite a bit of the mountain. Based on their map of what was open it didn’t look like the trail to Brown was open so I wasn’t expecting much. So I was on Mindful Mule and was a little unprepared for the openness of it all – it just kept going up and up and up. But, you know, Mindful Mule is still a fine trail bike, she is, and we had a fucking ball up there. It is so beautiful. Flowers everywhere. Lupine. Lotus. Mimulus. The once double track road has narrowed to single track with all the flowers and little use. I had no strength in my legs still from last weekend’s run but the mountain pulled me to the top. To the almost top. The trail is closed a couple miles short but you get almost everything that you could ask for. It felt so great to be back up there. I can’t even believe I’m writing this. It all felt like a dream. Clear my schedule! If anyone asks, tell them I’m on Brown Mountain…