Monthly Archives: May 2013

Applegate 600k preride: a rite of passage

Tomorrow, many brave people will join the Oregon Randonneurs to ride the Applegate 600k, approximately 375 miles from Oregon City down to Cottage Grove and back. Since I really wanted to do this ride but work tomorrow and Sunday when it actually happens, I did the next best thing: rode it myself on Wednesday!

I think it was a bit of a rite of passage for me, for a bunch of reasons (I thought about this while I was riding, and trust me, when you’re pedaling for 33 hours or so–not counting time spent sleeping–that’s a lot of think time:)

It was…

  • The first time I’ve ever ridden 600 kilometers at a go (the furthest previous brevet I’d done being 300k)
  • The first ride this long that I’ve done entirely by myself–not just riding by myself, I mean, but knowing that no one else is even on the route with me
  • The first time I’ve ever overnighted somewhere on a ride, other than camping trips (I wish I’d thought to bring a toothbrush:)
  • The first time where I really had to work sometimes to put out of my mind how much further I still had to go, and focus only on where I was right then

It was also, despite the fact that I rode it myself, sort of a team effort. James zip car-ed me over to my 5am start in Oregon City like a trouper (thanks, love!:). Tim from 21st Avenue Bicycles, who I met on the 3 Capes 300k, lent me a bigger saddle bag so I could carry more stuff (which I thought would be more layers but ended up mostly being more food). And Dylan, who I also met on the 3 Capes ride and who happens to live in Eugene near the overnight control not only graciously let me sleep in his extra bed for a few hours but went way beyond the call of hospitality to offer me a shower, extra clothes to sleep in, and some love from Rhino, his super sweet puppy. That kind of thing makes me supremely happy, like the world is full of friends.

shoot to kill(even if this person, from early in the ride, might not agree. Or know which “to” to use)

The ride itself? It was awesome. Actually, to be honest, the weather on the first day was super crappy. There was so much wind. Not like “oh, what an annoying headwind” kind of wind. More like bike-stopping, white-knuckle-on-the-handlebars, can’t-hear-a-car-until-it’s-6-inches-behind-you, wind-so-fast-you-can’t-breathe-in-your-nose kind of wind. I felt like however hard I worked, I was still moving in slow motion. And I’m not sure if it was the wind or what, but my nose would not stop bleeding. I had like 7 different nosebleeds. Pro tip: just hold your nose plugged, keep biking and it’ll go away.

Also, the intermittent downpours ensured that I spent most of the day in a state of semi-saturation (though the rain did let me “wash” my gloves, which were covered in blood from the aforementioned nosebleeds).

So all told, the weather kind of blew.

headwind(wind and grey skies. This picture could definitely sum up my first day:)

However! The route, like every route I’ve done with the randonneurs so far, is lovely lovely lovely, full of roads I had no idea existed with amazing views that I’d never seen. I don’t really have many pictures of them, but it’s beautiful out there, especially now when everything’s still fresh and green and spring-shiny.

It also was pretty rad to bike all day, fall into bed for a few hours, and then bike all day again. I know, that may not sound awesome to all of you, but it’s something I’ve often wondered if I could actually do. It turns out that yes, I can. And that’s a good feeling. And though the weather on the second day wasn’t as amazing as I’d been led to believe it might be, at least there was less wind, and only a few rain spells. And lots of hills, some of which, I’ll be honest, seemed heinously gratuitous (and I like hills!). But all of which were beautiful.

Both days were fun for all the little Oregon cities you go through. These rides make me realize how much else there is in the world beyond my little Portland bubble, and I super enjoy seeing all the different slices of life out there.

silverton(Silverton gets big points for having very nice public restrooms, where you don’t have to buy something to feel okay about peeing or filling your water bottles:)

I could probably spew for days about this ride (it still looms large in my mind, perhaps because it was full of so many firsts), but maybe I’ll save it for other potential posts. Though I will say that if you do this ride, keep your eyes open. I saw tons of wildlife, ranging from elk and deer to so many different kinds of raptors and little birds (and a mink–holy schmoly!), even a huge white owl that swooshed its silent owl-swoosh over my head as I closed in on Eugene. And I saw an amazing shooting star, at a point where I was feeling particularly annoyed that I was still not to Eugene yet. It’s such a beautiful ride.

I’ll be working at the start registration tomorrow, so perhaps I’ll see some of you there:) It’s going to be awesome:)

UPDATE: I got some pictures up finally! Check them here if you’re interested. Like I said, not very many, and not very photogenic due to grey, grey skies:)

(This) Woman and Body Image

While it’s true that I avoid poppy magazines and other media with their pictures of stick-thin supermodels and perfect hair, I can’t say that I’ve entirely escaped their influences.

True, when I was little my parents did an excellent job surrounding me with books and magazines and movies of substance, where people trafficked in ideas and critical thought rather than weight loss tips and ads for perfect makeup. But when you’re young and you have friends and you’re trying to find your place in the world, of course you start to wonder if it would all be easier if you looked and acted like the people on the covers of those magazines that your parents won’t buy for you. And though now I would never look at a People’s magazine (or whatever) and consciously say “Wow, I wish I looked like that woman,” or “I bet that woman has a way better life than I do,” I know that implicitly, some damage has been done.

It’s in the sneaky way I sometimes wonder if I could be more “fit” (i.e. more thin, the world’s worst association), or the way I wonder if I would be more beautiful if I shaved my legs again. Or the fact that I even think at all that it’s worthwhile to be more beautiful, as though physical beauty itself were a laudable life’s goal.

It’s in the way I sometimes start to measure myself up against other women, either real or imagined, as though there were actually some sort of competition. There isn’t.

But I do have a secret weapon against this sort of bullshit. And that secret weapon is activity. When I am running, when I am biking, when I’m walking through this world, when I can breathe deeply and feel my muscles working flawlessly beneath me, that is perfection. When I can power myself up a hill, my lungs gasping triumphantly at the top, that is beauty. When I feel healthy and capable and strong, I know that I’m just fine, and I don’t need a mirror or the consensus of a whole narrowly-defined-beauty-obsessed society to tell me whether it agrees.

That is what we should talk about instead of body image. A body is not merely something to look at, to be admired. It’s not a static image. It’s something that allows you to be in the world, to travel through the world, to experience and create. It’s something designed to respond perfectly to what you need it to do. It’s meant to do, not simply to be. And when you’re doing, moving, creating, there’s no time and no need to wonder about what you look like.

Whenever I forget this and find myself slipping into gloom about looks, I remember that I need to hop on my bike or pull on my running shoes and reset my conception of what actually matters. This is my secret weapon and my response to superficiality. Move. Do. Pump my legs until they scream, breathe hard, walk through the park and remind myself of all the natural beauty in the world, fall into bed exhausted at the end of a day well spent on what I love.

The antidote to worrying about being beautiful? Being alive.

bike picture o’ the day

This is my new favorite picture of my bike:

lupine trek n burley

It’s got (almost:) all the essentials for a happy stasia:

  • lupine, playing the role of nature
  • my bike and burley, playing the role of human-powered adventure
  • and, of course, mostly-blue skies, sunshine, and open road, playing themselves.

And yes. I really did just post a picture of my bike as though it were my only child that I’m oh so proud of. That’s right. :)

The politics of scarcity

In Portland, where there are many people traveling via many different modes of transportation, I rarely wave at people driving cars. Sometimes I’ll wave a “thank you” if someone does something nice, or sometimes if I’m feeling particularly exuberant I’ll wave at someone else who also looks happy. But mostly, if anything, I smile.

When I’m out-n-about on country roads, however, where the traffic is scarce and I rarely see anybody, I’ll wave to anyone who comes by. Which, of course, on roads in the middle of nowhere, is mostly people driving cars. I was thinking about this earlier this week, as I waved to yet another Forest Service vehicle that passed me on my mini bike trip. I have no real affinity for these random people whizzing past me on some lonely forest road, but I still feel compelled to acknowledge their existence in a more tangible way than I do many people I see around me in my real community of Portland. In fact, it almost seems rude to do anything less than make eye contact and smile.

What I think it comes down to is what I’ve been thinking of as the politics of scarcity–not in the sense that having fewer resources will undermine national security the way some people who talk about “the politics of scarcity” mean, but in the sense that when something is more scarce, in this case the resource of other human companionship, it becomes more valuable. When I haven’t seen hardly anyone for days, anybody who comes by is kind of exciting. Or worthy of a wave, at least:)

I think this is also why, when I’m out-n-about, I will talk to basically anyone. When three dudes on loaded bikes pulled up behind me in Estacada, for example, I followed them to a taco cart not so much because I wanted a taco (although the hot food was amazing, and way better than the trail mix I was about to pull from my own bag) but because the idea of sharing tacos with other people who also had stories of adventure to tell was enticing in a way that it might not have been had I been hanging out with my friends all week.

So yes, absence may actually make the heart grow fonder. Or, at least, it makes this little chica actively seek out what I might otherwise take for granted. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there, but it’s not that I should wave to everyone in Portland, too. I think it’s something along the lines that my little place in Portland, my little sparkling gems of community and friendship tucked into the larger Portland world–those gems stand out from the larger context of the city the way actual people stand out from the yawning empty space of a national forest on rainy weekdays. Sometimes they’re far apart, sometimes unseen for days (or weeks), but always there somewhere, and always making my day brighter when we run into each other, lighting up the way with a wave and a smile.