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Fall biking:)

I love transition seasons. I love the unexpected downpours, the glaringly bright sunlight that follows, the rainbows, the way the whole world looks shiny and new, over and over. I love the nostalgia, the way the crisp air seems to sharpen everything, even my memories.

I love the impossible blue-sky days, every time maybe the last for the season.

womens forum(still blue in November!)

I love that every day is different, the world keeping me on my toes.

And as far as falls go, this fall with its dry days and unprecedented sunshine has been spectacular. Luckily, my job lets me be outside a lot, because it’s been really, really (really) hard to stay in.

crown point columbia river(who wants to stay inside when this sort of thing beckons?)

Every year when I think about impending winter, when I look at my full-fingered, bulky gloves, when I think about having to pack my rain pants and booties and jacket with me all the time, when I bemoan the constant drive-train cleaning in my future, I wonder how I got through it last year.

But then I remember. I’m seduced into it by days like this:

eugene willamette river path

And even misty, mysterious days like this:

misty fall spiderweb(it’s not only sunshine that makes fall lovely:)

And pretty soon, I’ve slipped into the middle of winter without even realizing it. The days are darker, the world is colder, I spend more time being wet, but it turns out that it’s okay. Fall’s loveliness got me there, spring’s similar loveliness will get me out, and in the meantime, I will breathe deep of the watery air, blow my breath out around me in puffy little swirls, and be so, so happy to be alive and in the world.

I fricken love my bike.

(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.

Portland to South Lake Tahoe by bike: highlights in pictures

Yeah, yeah, we all know that I can never adequately write about a whole 20 days worth of adventure in one measly blog post. Regardless, as I put my pictures up online, I can’t help but try:)

So the best parts? Gosh, too many to count! I was reminded how much I adore finding places with good biking infrastructure:

(welcome to Eugene!:)

I biked all over Eugene even though I am totally unfamiliar with the city and had no map of it, simply because I could follow the bike signs and always find my way back. Biking infrastructure like that is so welcoming (not to mention a great economic investment on the city’s part), and such a nice reprieve from the often shoulderless roads that stretch between cities.

Bend was a pretty rad city too, not only because of some old family friends who live there and let me hang out with them for a few days–they even took me canoeing!:)–but also because no matter where you look up, there’s going to be some sort of beautiful mountain in the background.

(South Sister, for example, as seen from our canoe trip on Sparks Lake)

And leaving Bend, the Cascade Lakes Highway is even more amazing for mountains and lakes. Plus, almost everyone who drove past me had at least a bike or a kayak strapped in some way to their car. They all gave me plenty of room when they passed and were clearly were used to seeing (and being) bikes. That makes a huge difference for how pleasant it is to be on the road.

There was also some pretty amazing road construction equipment:

(are those parasols? And a lawn chair?)

I have no idea what that’s all about, but it looks like a party to me!

Crater Lake was definitely a humongous highlight. I’d been looking forward to biking around it since I left Portland, and it did not disappoint. In fact, I spent most of both days I was there unsure as to whether I was going to cry, laugh, sing, shout, dance, or simply explode because of how happy I was, how overwhelmed with gratitude and beauty. I took about 5 million pictures in my two Crater Lake days alone because every time I turned around I thought surely this is even more beautiful than the last picture I took!

(Crater Lake and Rim Road, 35 miles of hilly awesomeness)

Can you even believe that road? This is seriously one of the most amazing places I have ever been on my bike.

Oh, did I mention that I had great weather? It was cold in the mornings and at night, but the whole ride was sunny and lovely–even too hot sometimes during the California afternoons.

Speaking of California: the only way to get over the state border on a paved road (without going east to Klamath Falls) is to bike for a few miles on I-5. Yikes! I spent the first part of my trip dreading the day where I’d have to make my I-5 crossing. But then it turned out to be super mellow! There’s a huge shoulder separated by a rumble strip, and not too much traffic at 9am on a Saturday. In fact, it was downright pleasant until I got to this:

(uhoh…)

That’s right. I took the lane on I-5. It kind of scared me shitless at the time, but now in retrospect it makes me feel like a giant badass. heh.

I had some crazy headwinds for much of northern California, but the lovely views of Mt Shasta and some very nice waterfall hike stops made up for it. But the best part? Highway 89 through Lassen Volcanic National Park. The road there climbs all the way up to almost 8,700 feet, the highest point of my ride, and goes almost right over the park’s volcano namesake.

(nearing the summit and the shoulder of Lassen Peak)

Like Crater Lake, it’s another absolutely phenomenal ride–not only because the road is spectacular, with amazing views, but because there’s so much variety to what you can see there. For example, there’s a “geothermal area” called Bumpass Hell, named after a fellow (Mr. Bumpass. I kid you not) who lost his leg there after stepping through the earth and plunging into one of the boiling mudpits. The whole area is full of steaming hot springs and fumaroles, with a boardwalk to lead you by them safely. You can hike around and marvel at the vestiges of volcanic activity burbling and steaming about your feet, not to mention be astounded by all the crazy mineral colors.

(just don’t step off the trail and lose your leg like Mr. Bumpass)

After I left Lassen, the road, Highway 89 still, was actually pretty lame until I got to Truckee. Highlights included little if any shoulder and lots of logging trucks, plus a few bike issues to the tune of three flat tires and a broken spoke. But I made it safely to Tahoe, where my aunt and uncle let me camp on their beachfront property for a few days. I swam to my heart’s content, ran a few times, explored all over with my spunky, de-trailerified bike, woke up early every morning with two coyotes whose beach run I could set my watch to, and watched many amazing sunsets.

(yes, this actually does happen in real life!:)

And I even got to see (and be fed by:) my family in Sacramento at the end! And I coerced Mom into whipping out her own bike so we could take a ride down the American River Bike Trail, Sacramento’s greatest offering to bike recreation.

(aw, aren’t we cute?:)

The whole trip ended up being somewhere just under 1,000 miles. Remember that I don’t have an odometer or any sort of GPS on my bike, so that’s my best estimate from adding up the mileages on all my different maps and detours. I followed the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway down almost to Eugene, the McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeway from Eugeneish to Sisters, and the Adventure Cycling Association’s Sierra Cascades route south from Sisters, with my own improvisations to stitch the routes together, take a few side trips, and get from Truckee (where I left the Sierra Cascades route) to South Lake Tahoe. I have a lot of thoughts about and pictures from these places, so keep your eyes on the old blogeroo and I’ll post about some of them as I have time.

If you’re already champing for more pictures–there are many, many, many pictures–I’ve got some up now with the rest to come. As always, they’re hanging out over at my flickr site. Take a look and get psyched for your own bike adventure:)

Olney-Gothic Logger 300k–or, A Day on a Bike is Always a Good Day:)

Even though the last 300k I rode with the Oregon Randonneurs was so awesome, I have to admit I was a little nervous about yesterday’s ride. It’s a funny facet of stasia-hood: even if I do well at something I’m never convinced I’ll actually be able to repeat it. What if it was just a fluke? Intellectually, I know that’s ridiculous, but it’s the kind of dumb shit that goes through my head before I do anything semi-challenging.

So I was happy to discover that it’s true: I can ride 300k.

And what a lovely 300k it was! We started in Cathedral Park and immediately went over the St Johns Bridge, which is one of my favorite views in Portland. Sweet! And then a quick climb through the west hills, one of my other favorite places in Portland, and a crazy amazing descent down Rocky Point Road, which I can’t believe I didn’t know existed. Once we hit Scappoose, a jaunt along the lovely Scappoose-Vernonia highway, which I’d also never been on, took us almost to Vernonia, then along highways 47 and 202 to not quite Astoria but close. (My only complaint? Surely this ride could have been configured to take us all the way to Astoria, even if it required a few extra total kilometers thrown in there:)

The morning had a lot of this kind of thing:

(farms, grain elevators, fields… though somehow I didn’t take a picture of all the river we biked along and over)

…and I spent a lot of the first few hours with Michael, who not only bikes like a speed demon but will also talk philosophy with you at the same time! He was gracious enough to pretend like we were actually going at the same pace, even though he totally smoked me on the way back:) (And, let’s be honest, could have smoked me at any time.) Randonneurs are awesome.

(a flat tire was only a minor setback for the recumbent-mobile:)

 The first half of the ride was over really fast, actually. I guess objectively I don’t remember what time I got to the Olney control, but subjectively it seemed to have gone by very quickly. The second half went more slowly, especially the stretch between Birkenfeld and Vernonia–and then it went even more slowly when I finally made it to the Black Bear Cafe in Vernonia and ordered a smoothie that took forever. Not to mention there’s no way you can drink a smoothie fast without freezing your brains.

(But oh man does this place make a delicious smoothie for a warm day:) 

One funny thing about this ride was the sheer number of other bikers I ran into. First of all, on the way out I was super surprised when I got the the store in Birkenfeld, which I knew wouldn’t be open until 11. Rather than the abandoned wasteland I expected to see when I pulled up, though, I found this:

(one bike is mine, but where’d all those other ones come from?)

It turns out that some fellow had organized a ride for a bunch of other people, and they were using the store as a meal stop. Apparently they were on their way to the coast and then down to California. Pretty sweet stuff. I also saw a whoooole bunch of people who I later learned were on the Seattle to Portland ride. They were mobbing the St Johns bridge when I crossed it back to the finish–quite the impressive sight to have more bikes than cars on a bridge that is not normally what you’d call bike friendly. I sort of wish I’d taken a picture. But it was exciting to see so many other people out-n-about on their bicycles.

And the ride in general? I think the personal thing I’m most proud of is that I finished super strong. For me anyway. Not too long after I left Banks, a little less than 30 miles from the end, I got it in my head that if I hurried, I could make it back before 8pm. Thus began the mad sprint to the finish–as mad as my 180-or-so-mile legs would go, that is;) I guess I’m proud not only that I actually did make it back before 8, but also that I had that much sprinting in me left at the end of the ride, even up the rather long Springfield Road.

And like last time, I’m also just plain psyched for the chance to spend all day on my bike. It’s so rad to set aside a day just to go exploring, and also to know that you can cover a whole lot of ground in that day. All told, with the ride to the start and then home again, yesterday was about 224 miles of biking, with a lovely sunset when I finally left the end control for home. Awesome!

(such a nice evening to cap the day o’ biking:)

Oh, one last random thought: the second toe on my right foot is numb today. I assume it has to do with my worn-out shoes and the pressure on my foot from the cleat, but if anyone has any words of wisdom about numb extremities and what to do about them, I’d love to hear it:)

 

(and of course, pictures are here, though I didn’t take too many this time)